Purpose: To evaluate definitive radiation therapy delivering doses in excess of 60 Gy for elderly patients aged 75 years or over with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Materials and methods: The treatment results for 97 patients aged 75 years or older (mean age 78 years; elderly group) with inoperable or unresectable NSCLC were retrospectively analyzed and compared with those for 206 patients younger than 75 year old (mean age 64 years; younger group). The elderly patients were classified into two groups; 67 patients aged 75-79 years (the elderly A) and 30 patients aged 80 years or older (the elderly B). Most of all patients were treated with a total dose of 60 Gy or more in 2 Gy daily standard fractionation.
Results: The overall 2 and 5 year survival rates were 32 and 13% for the elderly A group, and 28 and 4% for the elderly B group, respectively, compared with 36 and 12% for the younger group. There was not a statistically significant difference in survival rates among three groups. In stage I-II NSCLC patients there was also no significant difference in survival curves among the three groups. In patients with stage III disease, however, the survival curve of the elderly B was inferior to those of the younger group and the elderly A group, although the difference was not statistically significant. After the treatment the deterioration rate of the performance status was only 5% in the younger group and 8% in the elderly group. Only three younger and two elderly patients died of late pulmonary insufficiency associated with high-dose irradiation to the proximal bronchus. No other treatment-related event was observed except for mild acceptable acute complications in the elderly groups.
Conclusions: Definitive radiation therapy is recommended to the elderly aged 75 years or older with inoperable or unresectable NSCLC, especially early stage disease, as an acceptable choice of treatment.