Reasons for palliative treatments in stage III non-small-cell lung cancer: what contribution is made by time-dependent changes in tumour or patient status?

A.G. Robinson, K. Young, K. Balchin, T. Owen, A. Ashworth



Stage iii lung cancer is the most advanced stage of lung cancer for which the potential of curative treatment is often discussed. However, a large proportion of patients are treated with palliative intent. An understanding of the time-dependent and -independent factors contributing to the choice of palliative-intent treatment is needed to help optimize patient outcomes.


This retrospective cohort study of patients with stage iii non-small-cell lung cancer (nsclc) newly diagnosed between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2012 at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario collected data including patient demographics, clinical characteristics, tumour characteristics, treatment, and outcomes.


Of 237 patients with stage iii nsclc included in the study, 130 were not treated with radical or curative intent (55%). Major time-independent variables cited for palliative-intent treatment included extreme age (5%), comorbidity (27%), patient choice (5%), and poor lung function (5%). Time-dependent variables included tumour progression on imaging (15%), weight loss (33%), performance status (32%), and the occurrence of a major complication such as hemoptysis, lung collapse, or pulmonary embolism (7%). A significant number of patients (20%) experienced a decline in performance status—to 2, 3, or 4 from 0 or 1—over the course of the diagnostic journey, and 12% experienced a transition from no weight loss to more than 10% weight loss.


A significant proportion of patients receive palliative therapy for stage iii nsclc because of changes that occur during the diagnostic journey. Shortening or altering that pathway to avoid tumour growth or patient deterioration during care could allow for more patients to be treated with curative intent.


Chemotherapy; patient pathways; lung cancer

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)