Stereotactic body radiation therapy or surgery for stage I–II non-small cell lung cancer treatment?—outcomes of a meta-analysis

Qiuning Zhang, Lihua Shao, Jinhui Tian, Ruifeng Liu, Yichao Geng, Yiran Liao, Hongtao Luo, Long Ge, Shuangwu Feng, Xiaohu Wang, Zhen Yang


Background: Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) has been increasingly recognized as a favourable alternative to surgical resection for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Many retrospective analyses compared the efficacy of SBRT with that of surgery for NSCLC. However, the difference in efficacy between SBRT and surgery in patients with early-stage NSCLC remains unclear.
Methods: We searched PubMed, the Cochrane Library, EMBASE and the Chinese Biomedical Literature Database from inception to March 14, 2018, to identify studies comparing SBRT with surgery in the treatment of stage I/II NSCLC. STATA 12.0 software was used to perform the meta-analysis.
Results: A total of 15 studies that carried out propensity score matching (PSM) were included. In this meta-analysis, patients with SBRT had worse overall survival (OS) than those with surgery, but the analysis restricting studies to the same adjustment factors showed that the difference in OS gradually decreased with the increase in comparable matching characteristics between the two groups and that there was eventually no significant difference. Patients treated with SBRT achieved similar cause-specific survival (CSS), local control, regional control, loco-regional control, and distant control compared with surgery. In addition, a separate analysis of 6 studies that compared SBRT with lobectomy also showed that with the increase in comparable matching characteristics between surgery and SBRT, the OS differences gradually decreased, and there was eventually no significant difference.
Conclusions: In this study, we found more favourable OS for stage I/II NSCLC treated with surgery, but when there were increasing numbers of comparable matching characteristics between surgery and SBRT, the differences in the survival rate were reduced to the point that they were not significant. The CSS and recurrence (local, regional, or disseminated) differences between surgery and SBRT were also not significant. Therefore, SBRT has the potential to be an alternative to surgical treatment in patients with stage I/II NSCLC, but these findings need to be confirmed by large-sample, long-term follow-up randomized clinical studies.