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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: The Aging Veteran | Table of Contents: Summer 2017 | Download this issue

New Initiatives | Announcements

Surgery vs. radiotherapy to treat non-small cell lung cancer


A new VA clinical trial will examine the effectiveness of surgery vs. radiation therapy for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. <em>(Photo ©iStock/Eraxion)</em>
A new VA clinical trial will examine the effectiveness of surgery vs. radiation therapy for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. (Photo ©iStock/Eraxion)

A new VA clinical trial will examine the effectiveness of surgery vs. radiation therapy for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. (Photo ©iStock/Eraxion)

The tried and true treatment for patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer has been surgical resection, or cutting out the diseased tissue from the lungs. Aside from longer hospital stays and greater costs, patients can expect a painful recuperation after an open surgical procedure.

For those lung cancer patients who cannot tolerate surgery, or have very small tumors, a special type of radiation treatment can be used, called stereotactic body radiotherapy. This treatment modality targets therapeutic X-rays only in the area where the tumor is, sparing the rest of the body from the toxic effects of widely scattered radiation. That precision allows the medical team to increase the intensity of the X-rays and shorten treatment time—factors that are a boon for Veterans' quality of life.

So which treatment is better? Over the last three years, Dr. Drew Moghanaki and his team have been trying to find out.

"It has been begging the question," Moghanaki told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "if outpatient treatments that a patient could get potentially on their lunch break might be just as good as surgery, why are we still routinely recommending surgery?"

Moghanaki is a radiation oncologist and investigator at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. Along with Dr. Tomer Karas at the Miami VA Medical Center, he is co-chair of a new 10-year clinical trial that will compare the effectiveness of open surgery for non-small cell lung cancer to stereotactic radiation therapy: VA lung cancer surgery Or stereotactic radiotherapy trial (VALOR).

The clinical trial hopes to enroll 670 Veterans at six VA medical centers, in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

Researchers will assess overall patient survival, patient health-related quality of life, respiratory symptoms, lung cancer mortality, tumor patterns of failure, and respiratory function for each type of treatment.


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