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Original Investigation
December 2014

Lobectomy, Sublobar Resection, and Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy for Early-Stage Non–Small Cell Lung Cancers in the Elderly

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
  • 2Department of Radiation Oncology, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, Gilbert, Arizona
  • 3Department of Health Services Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
  • 4Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
JAMA Surg. 2014;149(12):1244-1253. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.556

Importance  The incidence of early-stage non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) among the elderly is expected to rise dramatically owing to demographic trends and increased computed tomographic screening. However, to our knowledge, no modern trials have compared the most common treatments for NSCLC.

Objective  To determine clinical characteristics and survival outcomes associated with the 3 most commonly used definitive therapies for early-stage NSCLC in the elderly.

Design, Setting, and Participants  The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database linked to Medicare was used to determine the baseline characteristics and outcomes of 9093 patients with early-stage, node-negative NSCLC who underwent definitive treatment consisting of lobectomy, sublobar resection, or stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2009.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Overall and lung cancer–specific survival were compared using Medicare claims through December 31, 2012. We used proportional hazards regression and propensity score matching to adjust outcomes for key patient, tumor, and practice environment factors.

Results  The median age was 75 years, and treatment distribution was 79.3% for lobectomy, 16.5% for sublobar resection, and 4.2% for SABR. Unadjusted 90-day mortality was highest for lobectomy (4.0%) followed by sublobar resection (3.7%; P = .79) and SABR (1.3%; P = .008). At 3 years, unadjusted mortality was lowest for lobectomy (25.0%), followed by sublobar resection (35.3%; P < .001) and SABR (45.1%; P < .001). Proportional hazards regression demonstrated that sublobar resection was associated with worse overall survival (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 1.32 [95% CI, 1.20-1.44]; P < .001) and lung cancer–specific survival (AHR, 1.50 [95% CI, 1.29-1.75]; P < .001) compared with lobectomy. Propensity score–matching analysis reiterated these findings for overall survival (AHR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.17-1.58]; P < .001) and lung cancer–specific survival (AHR, 1.46 [95% CI, 1.13-1.90]; P = .004). In proportional hazards regression, SABR was associated with better overall survival than lobectomy in the first 6 months after diagnosis (AHR, 0.45 [95% CI, 0.27-0.75]; P < .001) but worse survival thereafter (AHR, 1.66 [95% CI, 1.39-1.99]; P < .001). Propensity score–matching analysis of well-matched SABR and lobectomy cohorts demonstrated similar overall survival in both groups (AHR, 1.01 [95% CI, 0.74-1.38]; P = .94).

Conclusions and Relevance  Lobectomy was associated with better outcomes than sublobar resection in elderly patients with early-stage NSCLC. Propensity score matching suggests that SABR may be a good option among patients with very advanced age and multiple comorbidities.