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Ann Thorac Surg. 2005 Jun;79(6):1834-9.

Adjuvant radiation of stage III thymoma: is it necessary?

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.



The criteria for administration of adjuvant radiation therapy after thymoma resection remains controversial, and it is unclear whether patients with Masaoka stage III thymoma benefit from adjuvant radiation. The goal of this report was to determine whether or not this group benefits from radiation therapy in disease-specific survival and disease-free survival.


Case records of the Massachusetts General Hospital were retrospectively reviewed from 1972 to 2004. One hundred and seventy-nine patients underwent resection for thymoma, of which 45 had stage III disease.


Forty-five stage III patients underwent resection and in 36 it was complete. Thirty-eight stage III patients received radiation therapy. Baseline prognostic factors between radiated and nonradiated groups were similar. The addition of adjuvant radiotherapy did not alter local or distant recurrence rates in patients with stage III thymoma. Disease-specific survival at 10 years in stage III patients who did not receive radiation was 75% (95% confidence interval, 32% to 100%) and in patients who did receive radiation therapy it was 79% (95% confidence interval, 64% to 94%) (p = 0.21). The most common site of relapse was the pleura.


Most patients who have stage III thymoma undergo complete resection. Some patients enjoy prolonged disease-free survival without adjuvant radiation after resection of stage III thymoma. Radiation does not seem to prevent pleural recurrences when given after resection of stage III thymomas. The use of routine adjuvant radiation after a complete resection of stage III thymoma needs to be re-addressed. There may be a role for the use of chemotherapy to reduce pleural recurrences.

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