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Clin Lung Cancer. 2004 Jan;5(4):214-25.

Prognostic significance of micrometastasis in non-small-cell lung cancer.

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Division of Thoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Accurate staging of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) determines prognosis and facilitates decisions regarding treatment options. Unfortunately, even after an apparently complete resection in patients with stage I disease, the recurrence rates range from 25% to 50%, and overall survival is not encouraging. One possible reason for this may be that those patients with a poor outcome actually have more extensive disease, with occult locoregional and/or distant metastasis than originally identified by routine pathologic staging techniques. There is now a sizable body of literature on the detection and possible prognostic role of occult disease in lung cancer. The majority of these studies are based on immunohistochemical analysis of lymph nodes and/or bone marrow, but a handful of studies use molecular approaches. The purpose of this review is to summarize and critique the current literature on occult tumor cell spread to lymph nodes and bone marrow in patients with NSCLC. Based on this literature, we believe that the prognostic significance of bone marrow micrometastasis remains unclear. However, the majority of studies indicate that occult lymph node disease is associated with a poor outcome. Thus, our ability to detect individual tumor cells could result in more accurate staging of NSCLC in patients and would potentially lead to the development of novel therapies, as well as influence decisions regarding the use of appropriate multimodality treatment strategies, the choice of surgical technique, and extent of dissection. As data accumulate, the presence or absence of occult nodal involvement should probably be considered at the next revision of the staging system for NSCLC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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