Induction chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer with clinically evident mediastinal node metastases: the role of postoperative radiotherapy.
Survival for clinical Stage IIIa (T1-3, N2) non-small cell lung cancer is very poor because of poor local disease control and systemic spread. To address these shortcomings, we initiated a treatment program with induction chemotherapy, surgery, and postoperative radiation reserved for patients with residual disease at thoracotomy. Between 1984 and 1986, 41 patients with clinically evident N2 disease were treated with induction chemotherapy followed by resection and the selective use of intraoperative brachytherapy. All patients with tumor in the resection specimen received two cycles of chemotherapy and 15 patients received radiation therapy. With a median follow-up of 5.4 years, overall survival is 27% at 3 years, and 12% at 5 years. Despite the adverse selection process median survival is 19 months for patients receiving postoperative radiation therapy, and 22 months for the more favorable patients not requiring radiation therapy, supporting the selective use of postoperative radiation in this setting. In summary, this treatment has yielded good median survival and long-term survival for some of the patients. However, the ultimate value of this approach can only be determined by prospective trials which compare it to standard therapy.