The rationale for adjuvant chemotherapy in stage I non-small cell lung cancer

Leora Horn, Alan B. Sandler, Joe B. Putnam, David H. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The past decade has witnessed renewed interest in studies exploring the benefits of adjuvant (postoperative) chemotherapy (± radiation therapy) in patients with resected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Recently completed adjuvant trials have included a heterogeneous group of patients with resected stages I to IIIA NSCLC. With rare exception, the published results of these studies indicate adjuvant chemotherapy imparts a significant overall survival advantage. Subset analyses suggest survival benefit occurs primarily in patients with resected stage II or IIIA and is less likely to occur in stage I patients. This apparent lack of survival benefit in stage I patients was seemingly validated in a prospective trial conducted by the Cancer and Leukemia Group B in which stage IB patients were randomized to observation or adjuvant carboplatin and paclitaxel. Survival at 5 -years was identical in the two arms of this trial. By contrast, two contemporary postoperative chemotherapy trials also conducted exclusively in stage I NSCLC patients yielded positive survival results. The divergent outcome of the prospective trials along with the negative subset analyses has created uncertainty as to the utility of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy in stage I NSCLC. Herein we review the data underlying this controversy and offer a proposed algorithm to aid the clinician in selecting patients whom we believe may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy. The treatment algorithm is based on currently available tumor- and host-related factors that affect prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-383
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Adjuvant chemotherapy
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Stage I non-small cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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