Introduction: The physical properties of proton beam radiation may offer advantages for treating patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, its utility for the treatment of medically inoperable stage I NSCLC patients with stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is unknown.
Methods: Outcomes for patients with medically inoperable stage I NSCLC treated with proton SBRT were retrospectively analyzed. Proton SBRT was selected as the treatment modality based on pulmonary comorbidities (n = 5), prior chest radiation or/and multiple primary tumors (n = 7), or other reasons (n = 3). Treatments were administered using 2 to 3 proton beams. Treatment toxicity was scored according to common toxicity criteria for adverse events version 4 criteria.
Results: Fifteen consecutive patients and 20 tumors were treated with proton SBRT to 42 to 50 Gy(relative biological effectiveness) in 3 to 5 fractions between July 2008 and September 2010. Treatments were well tolerated with only one case of grade 2 fatigue, one case of grade 2 dermatitis, three cases of rib fracture (maximum grade 2), and one case of grade 3 pneumonitis in a patient with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With a median follow-up of 24.1 months, 2-year overall survival and local control rates were 64% (95% confidence limits, 34%-83%) and 100% (83%-100%), respectively.
Conclusions: We conclude that proton SBRT is effective and well tolerated in this unfavorable group of patients. Prospective clinical trials testing the utility of proton SBRT in stage I NSCLC are warranted.