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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage IIIA NSCLC Treatment


Limitations of evidence (surgery):

Conclusions about the efficacy of surgery for patients with local and locoregional NSCLC are limited by the small number of participants studied to date and by the potential methodological weaknesses of the trials.

Neoadjuvant therapy

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

The role of chemotherapy prior to surgery in patients with stage III-N2 NSCLC has been extensively tested in clinical trials. The proposed benefits of preoperative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy include the following:

  • A reduction in tumor size that may facilitate surgical resection.
  • Early eradication of micrometastases.
  • Better tolerability.

Evidence (neoadjuvant chemotherapy):

  1. The Cochrane Collaboration group provided a systematic review and meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials that included 988 patients and evaluated the addition of preoperative chemotherapy to surgery versus surgery alone.[3] These trials evaluated patients with stages I, II, and IIIA NSCLC.
    • Preoperative chemotherapy provided an absolute benefit in survival of 6% across all stages of disease, from 14% to 20% at 5 years (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.69-0.97; P = .022).[3][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
    • This analysis was unable to address questions such as whether particular types of patients may benefit more or less from preoperative chemotherapy.[4]
  2. In the largest trial reported to date, 519 patients were randomly assigned to receive either surgery alone or three cycles of platinum-based chemotherapy followed by surgery.[5] Most patients (61%) had clinical stage I disease, 31% had stage II disease, and 7% had stage III disease.
    • Postoperative complications were similar between groups, and no impairment of quality of life was observed.
    • There was no evidence of a benefit in terms of overall survival (OS) (HR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.80-1.31; P = .86)
    • Updating the systematic review by addition of the present result suggests a 12% relative survival benefit with the addition of preoperative chemotherapy (1,507 patients, HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.76-1.01; P = .07), equivalent to an absolute improvement in survival of 5% at 5 years.[5]

Adjuvant therapy

Adjuvant chemotherapy

Patients with completely resected stage IIIA NSCLC may benefit from postoperative cisplatin-based chemotherapy.[6][Level of evidence: 1iiA]

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