OBJECTIVES: Resection is the standard treatment for stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in operable patients. Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is recommended for inoperable patients. A shift from surgery to SBRT is expected in elderly patients due to increased frailty and competing risks. We assessed the current influence of age on treatment decision-making and overall survival (OS).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study using data from patients with clinical stage I NSCLC diagnosed in 2012-2016 and treated with lobectomy, segmentectomy, wedge resection, or SBRT, retrieved from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Patient characteristics and OS were compared between SBRT and (sub)lobar resection for patients aged 18-79 and ≥80 years.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: 8764 patients treated with lobectomy (n = 4648), segmentectomy (n = 122), wedge resection (n = 272), or SBRT (n = 3722) were included. In 2012-2016, SBRT was increasingly used for octogenarians and younger patients from 75.3% to 83.7% and from 30.8% to 43.2%, respectively. Five-year OS in the whole population was 70% after surgery versus 39% after SBRT and 50% versus 27% in octogenarians. After correction for age, gender, year of diagnosis, and clinical T-stage, OS was equal after lobectomy and SBRT in the first 2 years after diagnosis. However, after >2 years, OS was better after lobectomy than after SBRT. SBRT is the prevailing treatment in octogenarians with stage I NSCLC. While surgery is associated with better OS than SBRT, factors other than treatment modality (e.g. comorbidity) may have had a significant impact on survival. The wider application of SBRT in octogenarians likely reflects the frailty of this group. Registries and trials are required to identify key determinants of frailty in this specific population to improve patient selection for surgery or SBRT.