Outcomes and efficacy of thoracic surgery biopsy for tumor molecular profiling in patients with advanced lung cancer

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Molecular testing of patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer for personalized therapy often is limited by insufficient specimen from nonsurgical biopsies. We measured the feasibility, patient safety, and clinical impact of thoracic surgical tumor biopsy in patients with stage IV non–small cell lung cancer.


This is a single institution retrospective analysis. Patients with stage IV non–small cell lung cancer undergoing elective surgical tissue biopsy for molecular analysis were evaluated from March 2011 to November 2012. Perioperative specific variables were measured.


Twenty-five patients with known or suspected stage IV non–small cell lung cancer undergoing surgical biopsy were identified. All cases were discussed at a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology conference or a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology clinic. Preoperative histologies included adenocarcinoma in 20 patients (80.0%) and squamous cell carcinoma in 2 patients (8.0%). Surgical procedures consisted of video-assisted thoracic surgery wedge biopsy (16, 64%), video-assisted thoracic surgery pleural biopsy (4, 16.0%), mediastinoscopy (2, 8.0%), supraclavicular/cervical lymph node excisional biopsy (3, 12.0%), and rib/chest wall resection (2, 8.0%). There were no deaths and 5 postoperative complications (20.0%). Surgery identified potentially targetable molecular information in 19 of the total patients undergoing operation (76.0%) and changed the treatment strategy in 14 patients (56.0%); 10 of the total cohort (40.0%) were enrolled into therapeutic targeted clinical trials.


These data suggest that thoracic surgical biopsy can be safely performed in appropriately selected patients with stage IV non–small cell lung cancer and direct personalized therapy and enrollment into relevant clinical trials. Patients with advanced-stage non–small cell lung cancer should be discussed in a multidisciplinary setting to determine the need and strategy for thoracic surgical biopsy for molecular analysis.

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