National Cancer Database Analysis of Proton Versus Photon Radiation Therapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Kristin A. Higgins, Kelli O'Connell, Yuan Liu, Theresa W. Gillespie, Mark W. McDonald, Rathi N. Pillai, Kirtesh R. Patel, Pretesh R. Patel, Clifford G. Robinson, Charles B. Simone, Taofeek K. Owonikoko, Chandra P. Belani, Fadlo R. Khuri, Walter J. Curran, Suresh S. Ramalingam, Madhusmita Behera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Purpose To analyze outcomes and predictors associated with proton radiation therapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the National Cancer Database. Methods and Materials The National Cancer Database was queried to capture patients with stage I-IV NSCLC treated with thoracic radiation from 2004 to 2012. A logistic regression model was used to determine the predictors for utilization of proton radiation therapy. The univariate and multivariable association with overall survival were assessed by Cox proportional hazards models along with log–rank tests. A propensity score matching method was implemented to balance baseline covariates and eliminate selection bias. Results A total of 243,822 patients (photon radiation therapy: 243,474; proton radiation therapy: 348) were included in the analysis. Patients in a ZIP code with a median income of <$46,000 per year were less likely to receive proton treatment, with the income cohort of $30,000 to $35,999 least likely to receive proton therapy (odds ratio 0.63 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.44-0.90]; P=.011). On multivariate analysis of all patients, non-proton therapy was associated with significantly worse survival compared with proton therapy (hazard ratio 1.21 [95% CI 1.06-1.39]; P<.01). On propensity matched analysis, proton radiation therapy (n=309) was associated with better 5-year overall survival compared with non-proton radiation therapy (n=1549), 22% versus 16% (P=.025). For stage II and III patients, non-proton radiation therapy was associated with worse survival compared with proton radiation therapy (hazard ratio 1.35 [95% CI 1.10-1.64], P<.01). Conclusions Thoracic radiation with protons is associated with better survival in this retrospective analysis; further validation in the randomized setting is needed to account for any imbalances in patient characteristics, including positron emission tomography–computed tomography staging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


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