Percutaneous thermal ablation for stage IA non-small cell lung cancer: long-term follow-up

Chaitan K. Narsule, Praveen Sridhar, Divya Nair, Avneesh Gupta, Roy G. Oommen, Michael I. Ebright, Virginia R. Litle, Hiran C. Fernando


Background: Surgical resection is the most effective curative therapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, many patients are unable to tolerate resection secondary to poor reserve or comorbid disease. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation (MWA) are methods of percutaneous thermal ablation that can be used to treat medically inoperable patients with NSCLC. We present long-term outcomes following thermal ablation of stage IA NSCLC from a single center.
Methods: Patients with stage IA NSCLC and factors precluding resection who underwent RFA or MWA from July 2005 to September 2009 were studied. CT and PET-CT scans were performed at 3 and 6 month intervals, respectively, for first 24 months of follow-up. Factors associated with local progression (LP) and overall survival (OS) were analyzed.
Results: Twenty-one patients underwent 21 RFA and 4 MWA for a total of 25 ablations. Fifteen patients had T1a and six patients had T1b tumors. Mean follow-up was 42 months, median survival was 39 months, and OS at three years was 52%. There was no significant difference in median survival between T1a nodules and T1b nodules (36 vs. 39 months, P=0.29) or for RFA and MWA (36 vs. 50 months, P=0.80). Ten patients had LP (47.6%), at a median time of 35 months. There was no significant difference in LP between T1a and T1b tumors (22 vs. 35 months, P=0.94) or RFA and MWA (35 vs. 17 months, P=0.18). Median OS with LP was 32 months compared to 39 months without LP (P=0.68). Three patients underwent repeat ablations. Mean time to LP following repeat ablation was 14.75 months. One patient had two repeat ablations and was disease free at 40-month follow-up.
Conclusions: Thermal ablation effectively treated or controlled stage IA NSCLC in medically inoperable patients. Three-year OS exceeded 50%, and LP did not affect OS. Therefore, thermal ablation is a viable option for medically inoperable patients with early stage NSCLC.