Different segments different survival for T1N0 non-small cell lung cancer: should we change our paradigm in patients with superior segment tumors?
Editorial Commentary

Different segments different survival for T1N0 non-small cell lung cancer: should we change our paradigm in patients with superior segment tumors?

Fabrizio Minervini1^, Marco Scarci2^

1Department of Thoracic Surgery, Cantonal Hospital Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland; 2Department of Thoracic Surgery, San Gerardo Hospital, Monza, Italy

^ORCID: Fabrizio Minervini, 0000-0003-3595-7307; Marco Scarci, 0000-0002-4459-7721.

Correspondence to: Fabrizio Minervini. Department of Thoracic Surgery, Cantonal Hospital Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland. Email: fabriziominervini@hotmail.com.

Comment on: Jones GD, Caso R, Choe G, et al. Intentional Segmentectomy for Clinical T1 N0 Non-small Cell Lung Cancer: Survival Differs by Segment. Ann Thorac Surg 2021;111:1028-35.

Submitted Dec 16, 2020. Accepted for publication Jan 29, 2021.

doi: 10.21037/jtd-20-3528

The optimal management of early stage lung cancer is still a matter of discussion among thoracic surgeons. Many studies have already compared disease free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) between lobectomy and segmentectomy (1-3). Nowadays, the general consensus is that anatomical sublobar resections are considered equivalent to lobectomy for patients with tumors <2 cm even if the lung function is not impaired (4-6). The parenchyma sparing resulting from a segmentectomy could preserve vital lung in case of a further resection in the context of the emerging trend of multifocal adenocarcinomas.

Furthermore, the optimal lymph node resection for early stage non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) remained controversial for many years with several trials showing that patients with lobe specific lymph node dissection had lower perioperative morbidities with similar survival when compared with the patients who underwent systematic nodal resection (7,8). The rationale of performing a radical mediastinal node dissection results from observation that basal segment tumors have an increased incidence of positive infracarinal nodes, whereas superior segment tumors often metastasize directly to the upper mediastinum (9).

We read with acute interest the retrospective study of Dr. Jones and colleagues from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The authors included 416 patients who underwent intentional segmentectomy for T1N0M0 NSCLC and assessed whether OS and DSF are related to the resected segment.

Even if the 5 years OS was 73.1% (95% CI, 67.9–78.7%) in the entire population (comparable with data from the literature reporting a 5 years OS between 58 and 93%), the authors found that a superior segmentectomy on the right side is associated with worse OS, DFS and aggressive tumor biology. The same conclusions were drawn by Handa and his colleagues from Japan who reported in a retrospective analysis that segment 6 tumors have a poor OS (hazard ratio 3.33, 95% CI, 1.22 to 13.5, P=0.010), DFS (hazard ratio 2.90, 95% CI, 1.20 to 7.00, P=0.008) with more pathological lymph nodes than basal segment group (15% versus 5.4%, P=0.080) (10). A recent article compared outcomes after superior segmentectomy versus lower lobectomy reporting similar 5-year overall, disease free and locoregional-recurrence-free survival rates. Even if the laterality was not analyzed, Dolan observed similar 5 years OS (56.9%) and DFS (67%) (11) after a superior segmentectomy.

Besides some limitations of the study (retrospective, single center study), Jones and his group highlight an important but still unanswered topic: should we approach T1N0M0 superior segment tumor in a different manner?

Maybe we have to be more aggressive with this cohort of patients performing an intentional lobectomy (if the lung function allows it) with a radical mediastinal lymphadenectomy given that superior segment tumors often metastasize in the upper mediastinum?

The influence of a segmentectomy on the patient prognosis is still debated and, in the light of the data indicating different survival depending on the resected segment, the tumor location should be taken in account as risk factor.

Further studies, preferably randomized controlled trials, are needed to clarify the therapeutic surgical strategies in patients with superior segment early stage NSCLC.


Funding: None.


Provenance and Peer Review: This article was commissioned by the editorial office, Journal of Thoracic Disease. The article has undergone external peer review.

Conflicts of Interest: Both authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form (available at http://dx.doi.org/10.21037/jtd-20-3528). MS serves as an unpaid editorial board member of Journal of Thoracic Disease from Mar 2020 to Feb 2022. The other author has no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Statement: The authors are accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Open Access Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0), which permits the non-commercial replication and distribution of the article with the strict proviso that no changes or edits are made and the original work is properly cited (including links to both the formal publication through the relevant DOI and the license). See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.


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Cite this article as: Minervini F, Scarci M. Different segments different survival for T1N0 non-small cell lung cancer: should we change our paradigm in patients with superior segment tumors? J Thorac Dis 2021;13(3):1303-1305. doi: 10.21037/jtd-20-3528