Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is associated with poor survival even though patients are treated with curatively intended radiotherapy. Survival is affected negatively by lack of loco-regional tumour control, but survival is also influenced by comorbidity caused by age and smoking, and occurrence of distant metastasis. It is challenging to evaluate loco-regional control after definitive radiotherapy for NSCLC since it is difficult to distinguish between radiation-induced damage to the lung tissue and tumour progression/recurrence. In addition it may be useful to distinguish between intrapulmonary failure and mediastinal failure to be able to optimize radiotherapy in order to improve loco-regional control even though it is not easy to discriminate between the two sites of failure.
Material and methods: This study is a retrospective analysis of 331 NSCLC patients treated with definitive radiotherapy from 2002 to 2011. The patients were treated consecutively at the Department of Oncology, Odense University Hospital, Denmark with at least 60 Gy. All patients were followed in a planned follow-up schedule and no patients were lost for follow-up.
Results: At the time of the analysis 93 patients had loco-regional failure only. Of these patients, 68 had intrapulmonary failure only, one patient had failure in mediastinum only, and 24 patients had intrapulmonary failure as well as mediastinal failure. Of the patients which had lung failure only, 78% had mediastinal involvement at treatment start. The only covariate with significant impact on developing intrapulmonary failure only was gross tumour volume. Median survival for the total group of 331 patients was 19 months. The median survival for patients with intrapulmonary failure only was 19 months, and it was 20 months for the patients with mediastinal relapse.
Conclusion: We conclude that focus should be on increasing doses to intrapulmonary tumour volume, when dose escalation is applied to improve local tumour control in NSCLC patients treated with definitive radiotherapy, since most recurrences are located here.