Background and methods: Thirty-nine roentgenologically occult lung cancers in 29 patients were treated using photodynamic therapy (PDT) and/or thoracic radiotherapy (TRT) from January 1986 to March 1992. With the exception of one mixed-tumor case, all were squamous cell carcinomas.
Results: Initial PDT achieved complete responses in 25 of 39 (64%) of the cancers. Of the remaining 14 cancers that showed less than complete response (CR), 10 of the 14 (71.4%) showed a CR when subsequently treated with TRT, yielding an overall CR rate of 89.7% for cancers treated. Although nine patients experienced recurrences, six of these had CR when treated with PDT and/or TRT. To date, 22 patients are alive. Causes of death in the patients enrolled in this study are as follows: pyothorax (2); heart failure due to pulmonary hypertension (1); chronic respiratory insufficiency (1); subsequent primary brain cancer (1); and subsequent primary lung cancer (1). Only one died of primary lung cancer.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that PDT and/or TRT may be used as an alternative to surgery in the treatment of selected patients with roentgenologically occult lung cancer.