Lobectomy versus stereotactic body radiotherapy in healthy patients with stage I lung cancer

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2016 Jul;152(1):44-54.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2016.03.060. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Objectives: Stereotactic body radiotherapy is an effective treatment for patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer who are not healthy enough to undergo surgery; however, the relative efficacy versus surgery in healthy patients is unknown. The National Cancer Database contains information on patient health and eligibility for surgery, allowing the long-term survival associated with lobectomy and stereotactic body radiotherapy to be compared in healthy patients with clinical stage I disease.

Methods: The National Cancer Database was queried for patients who underwent lobectomy or stereotactic body radiotherapy for clinical stage I lung cancer between 2008 and 2012. Healthy patients were selected by excluding patients not offered surgery because of health-related reasons and only including patients documented to be free of comorbidities.

Results: A total of 13,562 comorbidity-free patients with clinical stage I lung cancer treated with lobectomy were compared with 1781 patients treated with stereotactic body radiotherapy. Time-stratified Cox proportional hazards models found lobectomy to be associated with a significantly better outcome than stereotactic body radiotherapy for both T1N0M0 tumors (hazard ratio, 0.38; 95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.43; P < .001) and T2N0M0 tumors 5 cm or less (hazard ratio, 0.38; confidence interval, 0.31-0.46; P < .001). In a propensity-matched analysis of 1781 pairs, lobectomy remained superior to stereotactic body radiotherapy (5-year survival 59% vs 29%, P < .001). Furthermore, when the subset of stereotactic patients who had refused a recommended surgery (n = 229) were propensity matched to lobectomy patients, lobectomy was associated with improved survival (5-year survival 58% vs 40%, P = .010).

Conclusions: Among healthy patients with clinical stage I non-small cell lung cancer in the National Cancer Database, lobectomy is associated with a significantly better outcome than stereotactic body radiotherapy. Further study is warranted to clarify the comparative effectiveness of surgery and stereotactic body radiotherapy across various strata of patient health.

Keywords: NSCLC; SBRT; lobectomy; lung cancer; stereotactic body radiotherapy; survival.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pneumonectomy*
  • Radiosurgery*
  • Survival Rate