Video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy is associated with greater recurrence-free survival than stereotactic body radiotherapy for clinical stage I lung cancer

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Stereotactic body radiotherapy is the standard treatment for medically inoperable early-stage non–small cell lung cancer. Recent data suggest that in operable patients, stereotactic body radiotherapy produces outcomes comparable to those of surgical resection. In veterans with early non–small cell lung cancer, we compared the outcomes of stereotactic body radiotherapy and video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy.


We retrospectively reviewed data from 183 patients (94.0% male) with clinical stage I non–small cell lung cancer who underwent stereotactic body radiotherapy (n = 56) or video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy (n = 127) from 2009 to 2014. Propensity matching was used to produce more comparable groups. Primary end points were tumor control and overall, recurrence-free, and lung-cancer–specific survival, as estimated by Kaplan–Meier actuarial analysis. Multivariable analysis was used to identify independent predictors.


In the overall cohort, the patients who received stereotactic body radiotherapy were older than the patients who received video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy (median age, 79.5 vs 64 years) and had more comorbidities. In the 37 propensity-matched pairs, the 3-year actuarial tumor control rate was 54.3% after stereotactic body radiotherapy and 90.6% after video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy (P = .0038). Actuarial lung cancer–specific 3-year survival was 78.1% (stereotactic body radiotherapy) versus 93.6% (video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy) (P = .055). One-year overall, 3-year overall, and 3-year recurrence-free survivals were 89.2%, 52.9%, and 38.5% after stereotactic body radiotherapy and 94.6%, 85.7%, and 82.8% after video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy (P < .005 for all), respectively. In multivariable analysis, stereotactic body radiotherapy independently predicted recurrence and poorer survival.


In veteran patients with early-stage non–small cell lung cancer, video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy resulted in better disease control and survival than stereotactic body radiotherapy. Although prior reports suggest that stereotactic body radiotherapy is a suitable alternative to surgery in early-stage lung cancer, a prospective randomized trial is needed. Nevertheless, stereotactic body radiotherapy remains a suitable option for medically inoperable patients.

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