(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Radiotherapy prolongs survival among patients with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) — and for Stage 1 and 3 NSCLC, at least, that association has become stronger over recent years, according to an analysis of data from the US National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database, presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)’s 2012 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL.

“In patients with unresectable inoperable disease, radiation therapy extended median survival in all stages of NSCLC in these 288,670 patients of the SEER database,” reported Feng-Ming Kong, MD, PhD, MPH, an associate professor in radiation oncology at the University of Michigan and chair of the Radiation Oncology Field Advisory Committee of the National Veteran Administration of Radiation Oncology Program.

Dr. Kong’s study assessed radiotherapy’s effects on survival compared to other nonsurgical treatments and trends in survival rates over recent years, using data from the SEER database for patients diagnosed during 1999-2008. Overall, 78% of patients with NSCLC patients had been treated with non-surgical interventions and “only 32% received radiation treatment,” Dr. Kang found. Patients who underwent radiotherapy but not surgery had “significantly better survival in each stage” (P<0.05), Dr. Kong reported.

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There were also inconsistent signs that radiotherapy’s association with prolonged survival might have increased over time.

“In those treated with radiation, the median survival improved significantly during recent years (2004-2008) compared to that of earlier years (1999-2003) in Stage 1 (6 months’ extension) and Stage 3 (3 months’ extension), but not Stage 2 and 4 (no changes),” Dr. Kong reported.

The improvements might be a result of the wider adoption of more sophisticated and better-targeted radiotherapy technologies, she speculated.

“There have been remarkable advances in radiation technology in treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) recently,” Dr. Kong concluded. “Superior survival in patients of Stage 1 and 3 treated during recent years suggests a potential benefit from the advanced technology.”