What is the role of radiation therapy in the treatment of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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In the treatment of stage I and stage II NSCLC, radiation therapy alone is considered only when surgical resection is not possible because of limited pulmonary reserve or the presence of comorbidities. [2] Radiation is a reasonable option for lung cancer treatment in patients who are not candidates for surgery. [3] Radiation therapy alone as local therapy, in patients who are not surgical candidates, has been associated with 5-year cancer specific survival rates of 13-39% in early-stage NSCLC (ie, T1 and T2 disease). [96]

This inferior survival reflects the poor functional status of these patients, as well as the likelihood of these patients actually having a higher stage, given the known limitations of clinical staging. Survival appears to be enhanced by the use of hyperfractionation schedules, such as continuous hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy (CHART) at 1.5 Gy 3 times a day for 12 days, as opposed to conventional radiation therapy at 60 Gy in 30 daily fractions. Overall survival at 4 years was 18% vs 12%.

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