Purpose: The results from Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) 0617, a dose escalation trial that compared treatment with 60 Gy versus 74 Gy for patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), suggested that in these patients, the heart dose from radiation therapy correlates with survival. In particular, the study noted that patients with a high heart V5 and V30 had a poorer overall survival; however, the exact cause of this correlation is not known. We hypothesize that heart dose may be a surrogate for mediastinal nodal involvement, which has prognostic value in NSCLC. This study evaluates the relationship between heart dose and involvement of mediastinal lymph nodes in patients with stage III NSCLC treated with radiation therapy.
Methods and materials: A total of 56 patients were identified and treated with definitive radiation therapy from 2007 to 2014. The heart was recontoured for every patient by a single physician, per the RTOG 1106 contouring atlas. We assessed lymph node station involvement using pretreatment data, and nodal coverage was confirmed on plan review.
Results: Mean heart dose was found to be significantly higher in patients with multinodal station and level 7 involvement. On Spearman's rank correlation, level 7 was significantly associated with all heart parameters tested (P < .001). Patients who had 2 or more lymph node stations involved were found to have significantly higher heart doses for all parameters tested when compared with those who had only one station involved or no nodal involvement.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that heart dose may be a surrogate for other prognostic factors in stage III NSCLC rather than an independent predictor of outcome.