Background: We undertook a systematic review and literature-based meta-analysis to determine whether the timing of chest radiotherapy may influence the survival of patients with limited-stage small-cell lung cancer (LS-SCLC).
Materials: Eligible randomised controlled clinical trials were identified according to the Cochrane Collaboration Guidelines, comparing different timing of chest radiotherapy in patients with LS-SCLC. Early chest irradiation was defined as beginning within 30 days after the start of chemotherapy.
Results: Considering all seven eligible trials, the overall survival at 2 or 5 years was not significantly different between early or late chest radiotherapy. When only trials were considered that used platinum chemotherapy concurrent with chest radiotherapy, a significantly higher 5-year survival was observed when chest radiotherapy was started within 30 days after the start of chemotherapy (2-year survival: OR: 0.73, 95% CI 0.51-1.03, P = 0.07; 5-year survival: OR: 0.64, 95% CI 0.44-0.92, P = 0.02). This was even more pronounced when the overall treatment time of chest radiotherapy was less than 30 days.
Conclusions: There are indications that the 5-year survival rates of patients with LS-SCLC are in favour of early chest radiotherapy, with a significant difference if the overall treatment time of chest radiation is less than 30 days.