Objective: To determine the optimal number of lymph nodes (LNs) examined and the role of adjuvant chemotherapy in stage I lung cancer. Methods: The National Cancer Database was queried for surgically treated patients with pathologic stage I lung cancer between 2006 and 2014 (N = 65,438). The optimal LN numbers were determined in the multivariate Cox model and were further validated in the cohort with clinical stage I disease (N = 117,112) in terms of nodal upstaging and prognostic stratification. The role of adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with suboptimal staging (number of LNs examined was less than than the optimum) was evaluated in each T stage. Results: The number of LNs examined correlated with tumor size (p < 0.001). There were increasing survival benefits with each additional LN examined—up to eight, nine, 10, and 11 nodes for patients with T1a, T1b, T1c, and T2a, respectively. Validation from the cohort with clinically staged disease showed that the threshold of eight to 11 LNs was an independent predictor of nodal upstaging (OR = 1.706, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.608–1.779) and survival outcome (hazard ratio = 0.890, 95% CI: 0.865–0.916). After propensity matching, adjuvant chemotherapy was associated with improved survival in patients with stage T2a disease having suboptimal staging (hazard ratio = 0.841, 95% CI: 0.714–0.990), but not in patients with stage T1a to T1c disease. Conclusion: LN evaluation was important for accurate staging and adequate treatment, and examinations of an increasing number of nodes for progressively higher T components (i.e., eight, nine, 10, and 11 nodes for T1a, T1b, T1c, and T2a tumors, respectively) seemed crucial to predict upstaging and survival outcomes. Adjuvant chemotherapy might be beneficial to patients with stage T2a disease who have suboptimal nodal staging.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy
- lung cancer
- lymph node
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine