The optimal management of clinical N2 Stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer is still controversial. For a cure of locally advanced IIIA/N2 non-small cell lung cancer, the control of both local regions and possible distant micrometastases is crucial. Chemotherapy is generally expected to prevent distant recurrence. For local tumor control, radiotherapy or surgery has been adopted singly or in combination. If a complete resection can be safely performed, surgery remains the strongest modality for 'eradicating' local disease. Many retrospective studies have reported a possible survival benefit of induction treatment followed by surgery in selected patients with IIIA/N2 non-small cell lung cancer; however, randomized Phase III trials have failed to demonstrate the superiority of induction treatment followed by surgery over chemoradiotherapy, mainly because of the heterogeneity of the N2 status. IIIA/N2 non-small cell lung cancer consists of a heterogeneous group of disease ranging from microscopically single station to radiologically bulky ipsilateral multi-station mediastinal lymph node involvement. A recent definition proposed by the American College of Chest Physicians classified non-small cell lung cancer based on the N2 status, such as discrete or infiltrative type, and recommendations were made according to this N2 status, with definitive chemoradiotherapy recommended for infiltrative clinical N2 and definitive chemoradiotherapy or induction treatment followed by surgery recommended for other cases. Thus, the introduction of a multimodality treatment strategy seems to be necessary for the improved prognosis of non-small cell lung cancer patients with IIIA/N2 disease. In this review, we discuss the role of surgery and the optimal surgical management for patients with IIIA/N2 non-small cell lung cancer.
Keywords: N2; NSCLC; chemoradiotherapy; induction therapy; surgery.
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