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J Thorac Oncol. 2010 Jun;5(6):818-24.

Stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients aged 75 years and older: does age determine survival after radical treatment?

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Department of Radiation Oncology, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada.



Curative treatment of stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in elderly patients represents a therapeutic challenge. Data examining outcomes for the elderly after radical radiotherapy (RT) or surgery in the same geographic population are limited.


Using prospective databases from British Columbia, patients with stage I NSCLC treated curatively with either surgery or RT between 2000 and 2006 were identified. Kaplan-Meier, Cox regression, and competing risk analyses were used to assess overall survival (OS) and disease-specific survival in the elderly, and the relationship between age and survival outcomes.


Of a total of 558 patients with stage I disease, 310 (56%) received surgery and 248 (44%) received RT. Elderly patients (age > or =75 years) were less likely to undergo resection than their younger counterparts (43% versus 72%, p < 0.0001). Actuarial OS after surgery for elderly patients was 87% at 2 years and 69% at 5 years. On multivariate analysis, OS after surgery was dependent on tumor stage (p = 0.034) and performance status (p = 0.03), but not age (p = 0.87). After RT, actuarial OS for elderly patients was 53% at 2 years and 23% at 5 years. On multivariate analysis, age did not predict for OS after RT (p = 0.43), whereas tumor stage (p = 0.033), sex (p = 0.044), and dose (p = 0.01) were significant predictors.


Survival after radical treatment for stage I NSCLC is dependent on factors such as tumor stage, performance status, sex, and RT dose, but not age. Elderly patients who are sufficiently fit should not be considered ineligible for radical treatment based on age alone.

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