The optimal radiotherapy dose/fraction for limited-stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is undefined. Our objectives were to compare efficacy between hyperfractionated thoracic radiotherapy (TRT; 1.5 Gy 2 times per day [bid] in 30 fractions) and hypofractionated TRT (2.5 Gy once per day [qd] in 22 fractions), and to explore prognostic factors influencing the prognosis, such as the timing of TRT.
Patients enrolled in two independent prospective studies were combined and analyzed. The primary endpoint was local/regional control (LRC). The prognosis was analyzed using the Cox proportional hazards regression model.
Ninety-two and 96 patients were treated with hyperfractionated TRT and hypofractionated TRT, respectively. The 1‑ and 2‑year LRC rates of the two arms were 82.1 and 60.7%, and 84.9 and 68.8% (P = 0.27), respectively. The median overall survival (OS) times (months) were 28.3 (95% confidence interval, CI 16.4–40.1) and 22.0 (95% CI 16.4–27.5), while the 1‑year, 3‑year, and 5‑year OS rates were 85.2, 40.8, and 27.1%, and 76.9, 34.3, and 26.8% (P = 0.37), respectively. Using a multivariate Cox regression study, time (days) from the initiation of chemotherapy to TRT (TCT) ≤43 was associated with improved LRC (hazard radio, HR 0.39, 95% CI 0.20–0.76; P = 0.005). Time (days) from the start of chemotherapy to the end of TRT (SER) ≤63 (HR 0.50, 95% CI 0.32–0.80; P = 0.003) and prophylactic cranial irradiation (HR 0.43; 95% CI 0.29–0.63; P = 0.000) were favorably related to OS. Grade 2/3 acute radiation esophagitis was observed in 37.0 and 17.7% of patients in the hyperfractionated and hypofractionated arms, respectively (P = 0.003).
Both hyperfractionated and hypofractionated TRT schedules achieved good LRC and OS for patients with limited-stage SCLC in this study. Keeping TCT ≤43 and SER ≤63 resulted in a better prognosis. The incidence of acute esophagitis was significantly higher in the hyperfractionated arm.