BACKGROUND: The role of postoperative radiotherapy (PORT) in the treatment of patients with completely resected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was not clear.
A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis was undertaken to evaluate available evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs). These results were first published in Lung Cancer in 2013.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of PORT on survival and recurrence in patients with completely resected NSCLC. To investigate whether predefined patient subgroups benefit more or less from PORT.
SEARCH METHODS: We supplemented MEDLINE and CANCERLIT searches (1965 to 8 July 2016) with information from trial registers, handsearching of relevant meeting proceedings and discussion with trialists and organisations.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We included trials of surgery versus surgery plus radiotherapy, provided they randomised participants with NSCLC using a method that precluded prior knowledge of treatment assignment.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We carried out a quantitative meta-analysis using updated information from individual participants from all randomised trials. We sought data on all participants from those responsible for the trial. We obtained updated individual participant data (IPD) on survival and date of last follow-up, as well as details on treatment allocation, date of randomisation, age, sex, histological cell type, stage, nodal status and performance status. To avoid potential bias, we requested information on all randomised participants, including those excluded from investigators' original analyses. We conducted all analyses on intention-to-treat on the endpoint of survival.
MAIN RESULTS: We identified 14 trials evaluating surgery versus surgery plus radiotherapy. Individual participant data were available for 11 of these trials, and our analyses are based on 2343 participants (1511 deaths). Results show a significant adverse effect of PORT on survival, with a hazard ratio of 1.18, or an 18% relative increase in risk of death. This is equivalent to an absolute detriment of 5% at two years (95% confidence interval (CI) 2% to 9%), reducing overall survival from 58% to 53%. Subgroup analyses showed no differences in effects of PORT by any participant subgroup covariate.We did not undertake analysis of the effects of PORT on quality of life and adverse events. Investigators did not routinely collect quality of life information during these trials, and it was unlikely that any benefit of PORT would offset the observed survival disadvantage. We considered risk of bias in the included trials to be low. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Results from 11 trials and 2343 participants show that PORT is detrimental to those with completely resected non-small cell lung cancer and should not be used in the routine treatment of such patients. Results of ongoing RCTs will clarify the effects of modern radiotherapy in patients with N2 tumours.