Purpose: To study the value of postoperative radiotherapy for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with positive regional lymph metastases (NI or N2) after radical surgery.
Materials and methods: From February 1982 to October 1995, 366 patients with NSCLC and N1 or N2 disease were randomized into postoperative radiotherapy (S + R) (183 patients) and no further treatment (S alone) (182 patients). Postoperative radiotherapy (RT) was administrated 3-4 weeks after radical operation. Irradiated fields covered the bronchial stump, ipsilateral hilum, and most of the mediastinum. The midplane dose was 6000 cGy/30 fractions/6 weeks, with the spinal cord limited to 4000 cGy/20 fractions/4 weeks or less. One hundred thirty-four patients in S + R group and 162 patients in S alone group were evaluated. Clinical data were comparable in both arms, except for the numbers of N2 patients.
Results: The 3-year and 5-year overall survival rates were 51.9% and 42.9% in the S + R group and 50.2% and 40.5% in the S alone Group (p = 0.56). The 3-year and 5-year disease-free survival rates were 50.7% +/- 4.7% and 42.9% +/- 5.2% in the S + R group vs. 44.4% +/- 4.3% and 38.2% +/- 4.5% in the S alone group (p = 0.28), respectively. In the patients with NI or T3-4 tumors, there was a trend toward improved survival in the S + R group, especially in the patients with T3-4N1M0. These patients demonstrated 20% improvement in overall survival (p = 0.092) and greater than 20% better disease-free survival (p = 0.057). Postoperative RT reduced local recurrence but had no impact on distant metastases.
Conclusion: Postoperative RT significantly reduced local relapses, but did not improve overall survival, due to a high frequency of distant metastases in this patient group.