Curative radiotherapy in non-small cell carcinoma of the lung

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1990 Jul;19(1):15-21. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(90)90128-7.


Recent reports suggest radiotherapy administered to the 5000-6000 cGy level can result in significant long-term survival in non-small cell carcinoma of the lung. This is particularly true for many cases that are technically operable but for medical or other reasons thoracotomy cannot be performed. Such patients drawn from Southern Appalachia where the principal industry is coal mining are the subject of this report. In this region coal miners pneumoconiosis (black lung) is common as well as other chronic respiratory disorders resulting in poor tolerance for surgery. Three hundred and eleven cases of non-small cell carcinoma were irradiated during the 4 years of 1980 through 1983. This group consisted of 77 patients with clinical Stage T1, T2, T3 all N0, M0 tumors, the majority of which were technically operable but upon whom no thoracotomy was performed because of medical reasons or patient refusal. All are available for 5-year study. Each of these patients was uniformly irradiated to 6000 cGy target dose in 30 fractions over 6 weeks using standard techniques. Absolute or crude survival in these 77 patients is as follows: 1 year, 57%; 2 year, 36%; 3 year, 21%; 4 year, 17%; and 5 year, 17%. Comparison with reported surgical series treated for cure show little difference in survival up to 2 years. Thereafter, the survival curves diverge with radiotherapy patients dying at a somewhat higher rate although by 4 years both survival curves slope similarly. A possible explanation for this difference is the advantage thoracotomy offers in early case selection allowing exclusion of advance cases from surgical reports whereas radiotherapy must include patients with occult local metastasis not identifiable on clinical grounds. This experience, among other reports include evidence that radiotherapy can result in long-term survival or cure with minimal morbidity in lung cancer patients in whom surgery carries excessive risk.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy*
  • Esophagus / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Lung / radiation effects
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*