Preoperative chemotherapy has been intensively studied in stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer and, to a lesser extent, in stage IIIB. For a considerable time period, early stage non-small cell lung cancer was dropped from studies. For early investigators, shrinking the tumor size, thus allowing complete resection of initially unresectable tumors, appeared as important as destroying micrometastases. Nevertheless, analysis of relapse patterns shows that preoperative chemotherapy appears to act more on micrometastases than on local control. The first randomized studies of preoperative chemotherapy were conducted only among patients with stage IIIA disease. The French Cooperative Oncology Group presented a large randomized study among 373 stage IB, II, and IIIA patients at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in May 1999. A Cox multivariate analysis showed a protective effect of preoperative chemotherapy, and this effect seemed to preferentially involve patients with early stage disease. Ongoing studies of most US and European oncology groups are including early stage tumors, as in the Southwest Oncology Group trial 9901. The new Intergroupe Francophone de Cancérologie Thoracique also is ready to start a preoperative randomized chemotherapy study in stage I and II non-small cell lung cancer, that will compare two different strategies of preoperative chemotherapy in responding patients. Patients will be randomized to two groups: one group will receive chemotherapy before surgery and the other group will receive it before and after surgery.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company.