Review Articles

Post-operative radiation therapy

Amaury Paumier, Cécile Le Péchoux


In completely resected non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with pathologically involved mediastinal lymph nodes (N2), administration of adjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy is now considered the standard of care, based on level 1 evidence. The role of post-operative radiotherapy (PORT) in this group of patients remains controversial. In the PORT meta-analysis published in 1998, the conclusions were that if adjuvant radiotherapy was detrimental to patients with early-stage completely resected NSCLC, the role of PORT in the treatment of tumours with N2 involvement was unclear and further research was warranted. Recent retrospective and non-randomized studies as well as subgroup analyses of recent randomized trials evaluating adjuvant chemotherapy, provide evidence of the possible benefit of PORT in patients with mediastinal nodal involvement. The question of PORT indication is also valid for those patients with proven N2 disease who undergo neo-adjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery. The risk of local recurrence for N2 patients varies between 20% and 60%. Based on currently available data, PORT should be discussed for fit patients with completely resected NSCLC with N2 nodal involvement, within a multidisciplinary setting, preferably after completion of adjuvant chemotherapy or after surgery if patients have had neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. There is need for new randomized evidence to reassess PORT using modern three-dimensional conformal radiation technique, with attention to normal organ sparing, particularly lung and heart, to reduce the possible additional toxicity. Randomized evidence is needed. A new large international multi-institutional randomized trial Lung ART evaluating PORT in this patient population is now underway, as well as a Chinese study comparing postoperative sequential chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy versus adjuvant chemotherapy alone.

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