Thoracic lymph node recurrence after complete resection is common in non–small-cell lung cancer but it mostly occurs along with distant metastases. The recurrent disease might be localized and curative intent radiation therapy is the treatment of choice if no evidence of hematogenous metastasis is observed. We sought to describe the outcomes of thoracic radiotherapy for thoracic lymph node recurrences.
Fifty patients who had developed thoracic lymph node recurrence after complete resection received curative intent radiotherapy between 1997 and 2009. The clinical endpoints included the tumor response, overall survival, progression-free survival, locoregional recurrence within the irradiated field, and any other recurrence.
The planned total radiotherapy was completed in 49 patients with minor toxicity. The median follow-up time after radiotherapy was 41 (19–98) months among the survivors. The response to treatment was complete response in 65%, partial response in 24%, and progressive disease in 10% of the evaluated patients. The median overall survival after radiotherapy was 37.3 months. The 5-year overall survival, progression-free survival, and local control rate were 36.1%, 22.2%, and 61.1%, respectively. A multivariate analysis revealed that the absence of symptoms and the involvement of a single lymph node station were significant factors associated with a better overall survival.
Radiation therapy for thoracic lymph node recurrence after complete resection is safe and provides acceptable disease control. This treatment provides a better outcome if the disease is asymptomatic and has a single-station involvement. Early detection of the recurrence may thus improve the effectiveness of this treatment.