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[Radiotherapy in locoregional treatment of inoperable non-small cell lung cancer: results from a series of 381 patients].

PURPOSE: The prognosis of inoperable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is poor and thoracic radiation therapy is usually the main step of the therapeutic approach. The results of a retrospective analysis of a series of 381 patients treated from 1977 to 1990 for an inoperable NSCLC are reported.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Three hundred and twenty two men and 59 women were included into the study. Their mean age was 66 years. A squamous cell carcinoma was observed in 276 cases (72%). A superior vena cava syndrome or a Pancoast's syndrome were present in 21 and 26 patients, respectively. Fifty-two per cent of the patients had a WHO performance status > or = 2. According to the TNM classification, the tumor distribution was as follows: 11 T1, 153 T2, 175 T3, and 42 T4. The mediastinum was involved in 174 patients. All patients were treated by external radiation therapy with a total dose of 60-65 Gy. Classical fractionation of the irradiation dose was done in 217 patients and hypofractionation was used for 164 patients.

RESULTS: After treatment, improvement of the superior vena and Pancoast's syndromes was observed in 90% of the patients. Radiological complete response was obtained in 177 patients (47%). The 5-year overall survival rate was 6.2%. No significant differences in survival according to the initial tumor size, the mediastinum status or the fractionation scheme were noted. The 5-year survival rate was 13% in patients with a tumor that completely responded to irradiation. Death was mainly due to local failure (231 patients, 69%) and metastatic disease (107 patients, 32%). The radiotherapy tolerance was acceptable.

CONCLUSION: Although irradiation provides good palliation and a 10%-survival rate at 3 years, the results relating to radiation therapy were disappointing.

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