Purpose: Patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) are widely believed to have a grave prognosis. The purpose of this study was to determine the prognosis of patients with SCLC and SVCS as compared to SCLC without SVCS.
Methods and materials: A retrospective analysis of 408 cases of SCLC +/- SVCS was performed. Three- hundred and sixty showed no clinical signs of SVCS and 43 (11%) had SVCS; in 5 patients no adequate information was available about clinical signs of SVCS. All patients were classified as limited disease cases. About 98% received chemotherapy usually as the first treatment followed by radiotherapy. A median total dose of 46 Gy (range 30 to 70 Gy) was given at 2.0 Gy per fraction five times weekly. A prophylactic cranial irradiation was applied if a complete remission was achieved after chemotherapy or after 30 Gy of irradiation. Kaplan-Meier survival curves are shown and comparisons were made by the log-rank and the Gehan/Wilcoxon test. To adjust for prognostic factors, a proportional hazards analysis was done.
Results: Patients without SVCS had 5-year survival rates ( +/- SE) and a median survival time (MST; 95% confidence intervals) of 11% +/- 2% and 13.7 months (12.7-14.5) in UICC Stage I to III; in Stage III the figures were 9% +/- 2% and 12.6 months (11.2-13.7). In comparison, SCLC with SVCS had 5-year survival rates of 15% +/- 7% and MST of 16.1 months (13.8-20.5). The difference was significant in univariate analysis (Stage II disease: p = 0.008 by the log-rank test). In a multivariate analysis of all patients, Stage (Stage I + II > III; p = 0.0003), SVCS (yes > no; p = 0.005), and Karnofsky performance status ( < or = 70 < 80-100%; p = 0.008) were of significant importance.
Conclusions: SVCS is a favorable prognostic sign in SCLC. The treatment should be curatively intended.