SEATTLE – Adding radiotherapy to neoadjuvant chemotherapy does not improve long-term survival after pneumonectomy for non–small cell lung cancer, according to a Turkish investigation of 140 patients.
In the study, 100 (71.4%) patients had two to six cycles of platinum-based chemotherapy at least 3 weeks before surgery; 40 (28.6%) others underwent the same regimen with the addition of radiotherapy dosed at 45-66 Gy 6-8 weeks before surgery.
Five-year survival was 48% in the chemotherapy group and 50% in the chemoradiation group, an insignificant difference (P = .7).
“Chemotherapy before surgery is definitely beneficial, but I think we will get rid of the radiotherapy” in patients with operable tumors, said lead investigator Dr. Cengiz Gebitekin, professor and head of thoracic surgery at Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey.
“It does not provide any survival benefit,” and it might cause harm, he noted, adding that “the benefit of neoadjuvant treatment comes from the chemotherapy.”
The chemoradiation group showed a tendency toward tumor down-staging and higher complete response rates, but also a trend toward more radiation-induced tissue damage. The rate of bronchopleural fistula was 3% in the chemotherapy group and 5% in the chemoradiation group, although the difference was not significant. Even so, “some of these patients had pneumonectomies because of lung damage from the radiotherapy,” Dr. Gebitekin said at the annual meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.
It’s uncertain why radiation didn’t improve survival. The investigators excluded patients with known metastases or other malignancies, but it’s possible that some patients had occult metastases that had spread beyond the field of their localized neoadjuvant radiation, he said.
The patients were treated between 2000 and 2013 at Uludag University, Istanbul University, and Zurich University Hospital. They were 55 years old on average, and 84% were men.
About 40% of patients in both the chemotherapy and chemoradiation groups had right pneumonectomies; the rest had left pneumonectomies. Bronchopleural fistulas and other comorbidities were more common after right pneumonectomies, but not significantly so.
Seven patients (5%) in the chemotherapy group but none in the chemoradiation group died within 90 days of surgery.
About 32% of chemotherapy patients and 28% of chemoradiation patients (P = .6) developed major morbidities following surgery, including arrhythmias, pneumonia, empyema, and other problems.
Staples were used to close the bronchus in almost all patients, with the stump covered with live tissue in about 70%.
The majority of patients had stage IIb or IIIa disease on postop staging; postop staging was the only factor predictive of long-term survival, with higher-stage patients doing worse.
Dr. Gebitekin said that he had no relevant disclosures.