Aim: To define the prognostic significance of specific types of N1 lymph node involvement in patients operated on for stage II (N1) NSCLC and to evaluate if the extent of resection affects survival.
Methods: Of 1117 patients operated on from 1985 to 1998, an homogeneous group of 124 consecutive patients with pathologic T1-T2 N1 disease who had undergone a complete resection with systematic nodal dissection were analysed. No patients received adjuvant radio- or chemotherapy.
Results: The overall 5-year survival rate was 48.8%. Survival was not related to pathologic T factor, histology, number, percentage or level of N1 involved, visceral pleura involvement, number of lymph nodes dissected. Patients were then divided into 3 groups depending on the level of lymph node involvement (stations 10, 11 and 12-13) and survival analysed according to the extent of resection (pneumonectomy vs lobectomy). No significant difference was found, however, in the group of level 10, patients treated by pneumonectomy showed a better 5-year survival (58%) compared to patients treated by lobectomy (33%) with a median survival of 110 against 58 months. This data was confirmed by a lower incidence of local recurrence in the pneumonectomy group than lobectomy group (0% vs 24%), whereas the same incidence of distant metastases was observed in the two groups (29% vs 23%).
Conclusions: In patients with stage II (N1) NSCLC, only in case of station 10 involved, pneumonectomy could allow a better survival lowering the incidence of local recurrence. However the major part of patients with stage II (N1) NSCLC die for distant metastasis. This supports the necessity to develop a specific systemic treatment.