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According to an early online publication in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, radiation therapy administered following surgery may improve survival in some patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is named for the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originates, comprises the majority of all lung cancers. Earlier stage NSCLC may be treated with the surgical removal of the cancer (resected cancer). However, cancer returns in a significant portion of these patients.

Researchers recently conducted a study including data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to evaluate the effects of radiation therapy on outcomes among patients with resected NSCLC. This study included 7,465 patients who underwent surgery followed by either radiation therapy or no radiation therapy.

  • Overall, there was no survival difference between patients who had received radiation therapy compared to those who had not received radiation therapy.
  • Among a subgroup of patients with N2 disease (cancer spread to lymph nodes surrounding the breast bone), the risk of death was reduced by approximately 15% for those treated with radiation therapy.
  • Among subgroups of patients with cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes, there was actually a decrease in survival among patients treated with radiation therapy.
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The researchers concluded that for patients with N2 resectable NSCLC, radiation therapy following surgery may improve survival. Patients with N2 resectable NSCLC should speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of the addition of radiation therapy to their treatment regimen.

Reference: Lally B, Zelterman D, Colasanto J, et al. Postoperative Radiotherapy for Stage II or III Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Database. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006. Early online publication June 12, 2006. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.04.6110.

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