Study: SABR Is as Effective as Surgery in Operable Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy has similar overall and progression-free survival rates.

Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) was just as effective as surgery at providing long-term benefits to individuals with operable early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), results of a study at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center showed.

“After surgical resection, recovery may be prolonged and there can be significant loss of lung function depending on the amount of lung removed,” Joe Chang, MD, professor of Radiation Oncology, said in a statement.

“However, SABR functions as a non-invasive ‘knife’ to eliminate cancer with minimal side effects. Patients are treated in 30 minutes as an outpatient procedure, and they can return home or even work the same day after therapy is delivered,” Chang said.

“Lung function is preserved,” he said.

SABR concentrates intense doses of radiation on the tumor site without damaging surrounding healthy tissues and is used for inoperable early-state NSCLC.

Eighty individuals with early-stage NSCLC with tumor sizes 3 cm or smaller, from September 1, 2015, to January 31, 2018, participated in the study. Their results were compared with other individuals undergoing surgery during the same time.

The final follow-up for individuals was September 30, 2020.

The results showed that the overall survival (OS) rates and progression-free survival (PFS) rates were similar. Both the 3-year OS rates for SABR and surgical cohorts was 91%, while the 5 year OS rates were 87% and 84%, respectively.

The PFS rates for 3 years were 80% for the SABR group and 77% for the surgical group, while the 5-year rates were 77% and 80%, respectively.

“Further study is needed to better understand who benefits most from surgery versus SABR, because both treatment options achieve local control in early-stage lung cancer,” Chang said. “The future question is how to further reduce lymph node and distant recurrence for these patients.”

The investigators are working on another study to compare SABR and SABR and anti-PD-1 immunotherapy combined, for patients with isolated recurrences, larger tumors, or multi-primary lung cancer.


Long-term benefits of SABR for operable early state NSCLC shown in new study. EurekAlert. News release. September 13, 2021. Accessed September 14, 2021.

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