Impact of Enlarged Nonhypermetabolic Lymph Nodes on Outcomes After Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy for Early-Stage Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer

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Abstract

For patients with early-stage non–small-cell lung cancer treated with stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) whose disease has not undergone invasive mediastinal staging, the clinical significance of enlarged nonhypermetabolic lymph nodes (LNs) remains unclear. This multi-institutional study found that the presence of enlarged nonhypermetabolic LNs on positron emission tomography–computed tomography is not associated with increased post-SBRT failure rates.

Background:

Up to 15% of patients undergoing positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) before stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) harbor occult nodal disease. In the absence of invasive mediastinal staging, the clinical significance of enlarged nonhypermetabolic lymph nodes (LNs) remains unclear. We performed what is to our knowledge the first study to address whether enlarged nonhypermetabolic LNs were associated with higher post-SBRT failure rates.

Patients and Methods:

Two academic centers assessed 157 consecutive patients treated with SBRT for cT1-2aN0M0 non–small-cell lung cancer who underwent PET/CT without pathologic nodal staging. The cutoff of an enlarged node was ≥ 1.0 cm, although a 7 mm threshold was also evaluated. Local recurrence-free survival (RFS), regional RFS, distant metastasis-free survival, RFS, and overall survival (OS) were calculated by Kaplan-Meier methodology. Multivariate Cox modeling addressed factors associated with RFS and OS.

Results:

There were 120 patients (76%) with LNs < 1 cm and 37 (24%) with nodes ≥ 1 cm. Most patients had peripheral and/or T1 tumors. Median follow-up was 25.5 months. There were no differences between cohorts in actuarial local RFS, regional RFS, distant metastasis-free survival, RFS, or OS (P > .05 for all). Thirteen percent of patients experienced any nodal relapse, 15% of which occurred in the same station as that of the largest pre-SBRT LN. Stratification by largest LN location in an N1 versus N2 station showed no differences in RFS or OS (P > .05 for both). A 7 mm cutoff also showed no differences in outcomes (P > .05 for all). LN size was not correlated with RFS/OS on multivariable analysis (P > .05 for both).

Conclusion:

The presence of enlarged nonhypermetabolic LNs on PET/CT is not associated with increased post-SBRT failure rates.

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