The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Project for Lung Cancer: Proposals for the Revision of the N Descriptors in the Forthcoming Ninth Edition of the TNM Classification for Lung Cancer

J Thorac Oncol. 2023 Oct 20:S1556-0864(23)02310-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2023.10.012. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: The accurate assessment of nodal (N) status is crucial to the management and prognostication of nonmetastatic NSCLC. We sought to determine whether the current N descriptors should be maintained or revised for the upcoming ninth edition of the international TNM lung cancer staging system.

Methods: Data were assembled by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer on patients with NSCLC, detailing both clinical and pathologic N status, with information about anatomical location and individual station-level identification. Survival was calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method and prognostic groups were assessed by a Cox regression analysis.

Results: Data for clinical N and pathologic N status were available in 45,032 and 35,009 patients, respectively. The current N0 to N3 descriptors for both clinical N and pathologic N categories reflect prognostically distinct groups. Furthermore, single-station N2 involvement (N2a) exhibited a better prognosis than multistation N2 involvement (N2b) in both clinical and pathologic classifications, and the differences between all neighboring nodal subcategories were highly significant. The prognostic differences between N2a and N2b were robust and consistent across resection status, histologic type, T category, and geographic region.

Conclusions: The current N descriptors should be maintained, with the addition of new subdescriptors to N2 for single-station involvement (N2a) and multiple-station involvement (N2b).

Keywords: Lung cancer; Lung cancer staging; Lymph node metastasis; N component; N descriptors; TNM classification.