Background: Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is primarily a treatment option for medically inoperable patients, who are often elderly. However, few studies report the effects of SBRT in elderly patients. Thus, we retrospectively analyzed clinical outcomes and feasibility following treatment of very elderly patients (age ≥ 85 years) with stage Ι NSCLC and younger patients (age < 85 years) with SBRT in our institution.Methods: From January 2006 to December 2012, 81 patients (20 very elderly; median age, 80 years; age range 64-93 years) with stage Ι NSCLC received SBRT. Prescription doses of 48 Gy were delivered in 4 fractions over 2 weeks or doses of 60 Gy were delivered in 10 fractions over 3 weeks.Results: Local control was achieved in 91.8% of all patients at 3 years (83.1% and 93.8% of very elderly and younger patients, respectively), and the 3-year overall survival (OS) rate was 69.4% (40.7% and 75.0% of very elderly and younger patients, respectively). OS rates were significantly shorter for the very elderly group than for the younger group, with a 3-year cause-specific survival (CSS) rate of 77.9% (50.4% and 81.6% of very elderly and younger patients, respectively) and a 3-year progression-free survival (PFS) rate of 59.5% (44.7% and 63.5% in very elderly and younger groups, respectively). Multivariate analysis revealed a significant correlation between T stage and OS. Grades 2 and 3 radiation pneumonitis (RP) occurred in 7 (8.6%) and 2 (2.5%) patients, respectively. Among patients of very elderly and younger groups, grade 2 RP occurred in 4 (20%) and 3 (4.9%) patients, and grade 3 occurred in 2 (10%) and 0 (0%) patients, respectively. No grade 4 or 5 toxicity was observed, RP was significantly more severe among very elderly patients.Conclusions: SBRT for stage Ι NSCLC was well tolerated and feasible in very elderly patients. The efficacy of SBRT was comparable to that achieved in younger patients, although very elderly patients experienced significantly more severe RP. Although this study cohort included only 20 very elderly patients, the present data suggest that decreasing volumes of normal lung tissues exposed to ≥ 20 Gy and mean lung doses reduces the risk of RP in very elderly patients. The present data warrant studies of larger very elderly cohorts.
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