What is the role of adjuvant 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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The role of adjuvant radiation therapy after resection of the primary tumor remains controversial. [104, 105] Radiation therapy reduces local failures in completely resected (stages II and IIIA) NSCLC but has not been shown to improve overall survival rates. In one study, 5-year overall survival was actually worse (30% vs 53%). A retrospective SEER analysis also showed that survival was lower for this population.

A single phase III study using small fractions, with 3D treatment planning, showed a 5-year survival benefit in the radiation treatment arm (67% vs 58%). [106] This finding has not been replicated; hence, at this time, postoperative radiation therapy for stage I and II lung cancer is reserved for cases with positive margins, until further trials are conducted with modern radiation therapy planning and delivery.

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