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J Thorac Oncol. 2012 Mar;7(3):542-51. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e31824165d7.

Is there a lower limit of pretreatment pulmonary function for safe and effective stereotactic body radiotherapy for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer?

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany.



To evaluate the influence of pretreatment pulmonary function (PF) on survival, early and late pulmonary toxicity after stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer.


Four hundred eighty-three patients with 505 tumors of early-stage non-small cell lung cancer cT1-3 cN0 were treated with image-guided SBRT at five international institutions (1998-2010). Sixty-four percent of the tumors were biopsy-proven and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography was performed for staging in 84%. Image-guided SBRT was performed with a median of three fractions to a median total dose of 54 Gy. Pretreatment PF was available for 423 patients, and 617 posttreatment PF tests from 270 patients were available.


A large variability of pretreatment PF was observed: the 90% range of forced expiratory volume in 1 second and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide was 29 to 109% and 5.5 to 19.1 ml/min/mmHg, respectively. PF was significantly correlated with overall survival but not cause-specific survival: diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide of 11.2 ml/min/mmHg differentiated between 3-year overall survival of 66% and 42%. Radiation-induced pneumonitis grade ≥II occurred in 7% of patients and was not increased in patients with lower PF. A significant and progressive change of PF was observed after SBRT: PF decreased by 3.6% and 6.8% on average within 6 and 6 to 24 months after SBRT, respectively. Changes of PF after SBRT were significantly correlated with pretreatment PF: PF improved for worst pretreatment PF and the largest loss was observed for best pretreatment PF.


Image-guided SBRT is safe in terms of acute and chronic pulmonary toxicity even for patients with severe pulmonary comorbidities. SBRT should be considered as a curative treatment option for inoperable patients with pretreatment PF as reported in this study.

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