An increase in the survival rate for elderly patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which rose from 40% to 60% over the past decade, may be attributed to increased use of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), according to research presented at the 58th American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting.1

Researchers evaluated the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and identified 62,213 elderly patients who were diagnosed with stage I NSCLC. They analyzed overall and cancer-specific survival change over time based on treatment type and age through Kaplan-Meier, logarithmic ranking and Cox multivariate hazard ratio methods.

Survival rates for patients treated with SBRT rose significantly over the study period, with overall survival rate at 23 months following treatment with SBRT alone rising from 39% to 58%. Patients treated with surgery alone had an overall survival rate increase from 79% to 84%.

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Cancer-specific survival increased from 48% to 72% in the same time period for patients who received SBRT alone, and 87% to 91% for patients who received surgery alone.

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While survival rates for patients treated with SBRT were lower overall in contrast with patients treated with surgery, the researchers explained that this may be the result of selection bias where healthier patients are treated with surgery.


  1. Widespread adoption of SBRT has improved survival rates for elderly patients with early stage lung cancer. American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) website. Updated September 26, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.