RTOG 0617: Stunningly Worse Survival for High Dose Radiation in Locally Advanced NSCLC, but Carbo-Taxol Has Never Looked Better


The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) has been working on a large randomized trial in patients with stage III, locally advanced, unresectable NSCLC that asked two key questions:

1) is the best dose of radiation the "old" standard of 60 Gray (Gy), over about 6 weeks, or a higher dose of 74 Gy that has been found to be feasible?

2) Is there a value in adding weekly Erbitux (cetuximab), the antibody to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), along with weekly carboplatin/Taxol (paclitaxel) and concurrent chest radiation therapy (RT)?

Introduction to Locally Advanced, Unresectable Stage III NSCLC


When I was a medical student, the question about lung cancer that was always asked on "the Boards" had to do with the difference between stage IIIA and stage IIIB non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The reason this question was always asked is because patients with stage IIIA NSCLC might be considered for surgery, whereas patients with stage IIIB NSCLC would not be considered for surgery and instead would be treated with chemotherapy and radiation. The idea is that young doctors should be able to make that distinction and to direct patients to the appropriate specialist/treatment.

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