Objective: Different types of multimodality therapy, including chemoradiotherapy and surgery, increasingly are being used for the treatment of patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC; stages IIIA and IIIB). In this context, the applicability of a morphologic regression grading and its prognostic value were investigated.
Patients and methods: In a multicenter phase II trial, 54 patients with locally advanced NSCLC received neoadjuvant bimodality treatment (ie, two cycles of ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide, followed by twice-daily radiation up to 45 Gy with simultaneous administration of carboplatin and vindesine). Forty patients underwent resections. Using the corresponding resection specimens of the primary and regional lymph nodes, the following regression grading was established: grade I, no regression or only spontaneous tumor regression; grade II, morphologic evidence of therapy-induced tumor regression with at least 10% (grade IIa) or < 10% (grade IIb) vital tumor tissue; and grade III, complete tumor regression with no evidence of vital tumor tissue. Regression grading then was correlated with the survival time.
Results: Three tumors were classified as regression grade I, 10 were classified as regression grade IIa, 20 were classified as regression grade IIb, and 7 were classified as regression grade III. Patients with tumors of regression grades IIb or III showed significantly longer survival times than those with tumors of regression grades I or IIa (median survival time, 36 vs 14 months, respectively; 3-year survival rate, 52% vs 9%, respectively; p = 0.02). These survival times were also compared for patients who had undergone complete resection (median survival time, not reached vs 23 months, respectively; 3-year survival rate, 56% vs 11%, respectively; p = 0.03). The presurgical clinical response after patients had received neoadjuvant multimodality therapy had no predictive value in assessing the extent of therapy-induced tumor regression in the resection specimen.
Conclusions: After neoadjuvant therapy of patients with NSCLC, the proposed tumor regression grading was of predictive value for long-term survival. Beyond the achievement of complete tumor resection (R0), a therapy-induced tumor regression of < 10% of vital tumor tissue is pivotal for superior long-term outcomes.