Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive disease that continues to be associated with poor outcomes. Although, traditionally this disease is considered to be resistant to radiotherapy, more recent evidence suggests that radiotherapy can produce positive outcomes. Over the past 15 years, the development of new, highly conformal radiotherapy techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), has enabled investigators to optimise the delivery of high-dose radiotherapy to the whole of the hemithorax. Prospective single-arm trials have shown that the median survival of patients who have completed high-dose hemithoracic radiotherapy after extrapleural pneumonectomy could reach 23·9–39·4 months independent of the chemotherapeutic response, suggesting that IMRT could potentially have an intrinsic benefit to this subset of patients. These observations have led to a change in practice, with the introduction of adjuvant pleural IMRT after pleurectomy-decortication and the development of induction-accelerated hemithoracic IMRT followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy. This Review focuses on recent observations on the role of radiotherapy in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, with particular emphasis on the results of clinical trials that evaluate the role of high-dose hemithoracic radiotherapy.
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