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Thorax. 2006 Jul;61(7):597-603. Epub 2006 Jan 31.

Surgery for non-small cell lung cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

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  • 1Cardiothoracic Care Centre, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia.



Surgery is considered the treatment of choice for patients with resectable stage I and II (and some patients with stage IIIA) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but there have been no previously published systematic reviews.


A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials was conducted to determine whether surgical resection improves disease specific mortality in patients with stages I-IIIA NSCLC compared with non-surgical treatment, and to compare the efficacy of different surgical approaches.


Eleven trials were included. No studies had untreated control groups. In a pooled analysis of three trials, 4 year survival was superior in patients undergoing resection with stage I-IIIA NSCLC who had complete mediastinal lymph node dissection compared with lymph node sampling (hazard ratio estimated at 0.78 (95% CI 0.65 to 0.93)). Another trial reported an increased rate of local recurrence in patients with stage I NSCLC treated with limited resection compared with lobectomy. One small study reported a survival advantage among patients with stage IIIA NSCLC treated with chemotherapy followed by surgery compared with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. No other trials reported significant improvements in survival after surgery compared with non-surgical treatment.


It is difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of surgery for locoregional NSCLC because of the small number of participants studied and methodological weaknesses of the trials. However, current evidence suggests that complete mediastinal lymph node dissection is associated with improved survival compared with node sampling in patients with stage I-IIIA NSCLC undergoing resection.

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