Trimodal Therapy for Histologically Proven N2/3 Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer: Mid-Term Results and Indicators for Survival

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Surgery alone for stage III non–small cell lung cancer provides a 5-year survival of 20% and competes with multimodal treatments. In 1999, a trimodal protocol was implemented at the Schillerhöhe Clinic. The aim of this study was to verify the feasibility and outcome of this trimodal protocol including survival, risk factors for survival, and comorbidity in a single institution.


Included were all patients with potentially resectable, previously untreated stage III non–small cell lung cancer operated on between February 1999 and May 2006 in the General Thoracic Surgery Unit of the Schillerhöhe Clinic following the same neoadjuvant protocol. Treatment-related morbidity, recurrence, survival after R0 resection, and risk factors for survival (pN0 after trimodal therapy, downstaging of International Union Against Cancer stage, T downstaging, N downstaging, regression rate, and histologic type of tumor) were analyzed.


From 107 patients with stage III non–small cell lung cancer, 55 patients with mediastinoscopy-positive N2 or N3 were eligible for this study. Forty patients (72%) had the effect of International Union Against Cancer downstaging. Treatment-related comorbidity was 54% with hospital and 120-day mortality of 3.6% and 5.4%, respectively. Overall mean survival (Kaplan-Meier) was 43 months (95% confidence interval, 35 to 52) with an estimated 5-year survival rate of 49%. In multivariate testing, International Union Against Cancer downstaging after trimodal therapy achieved a level of significance (p= 0.031), and patients with UICC-downstaging after trimodal therapy had a mean survival of 53 months (95% confidence interval, 44 to 63) with an estimated 5-year survival rate of 60%.


Neoadjuvant trimodal treatment for histologically proven N2 or N3 stage III non–small cell lung cancer is promising and can, like no other approach at present time, considerably improve 5-year survival rates up to 63% in selected patients.

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