Introduction: We aimed to compare outcomes of patients with first primary clinical T1a-bN0M0 NSCLC treated with surgery or stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). Methods: We identified patients with first primary clinical T1a-bN0M0 NSCLCs on last pretreatment computed tomography treated by surgery or SBRT in the following two prospective cohorts: International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP) and Initiative for Early Lung Cancer Research on Treatment (IELCART). Lung cancer-specific survival and all-cause survival after diagnosis were compared using Kaplan-Meier analysis. Propensity score matching was used to balance baseline demographics and comorbidities and analyzed using Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: Of 1115 patients with NSCLC, 1003 had surgery and 112 had SBRT; 525 in I-ELCAP in 1992 to 2021 and 590 in IELCART in 2016 to 2021. Median follow-up was 57.6 months. Ten-year lung cancer-specific survival was not significantly different: 90% (95% confidence interval: 87%–92%) for surgery versus 88% (95% confidence interval: 77%–99%) for SBRT, p = 0.55. Cox regression revealed no significant difference in lung cancer-specific survival for the combined cohorts (p = 0.48) or separately for I-ELCAP (p = 1.00) and IELCART (p = 1.00). Although 10-year all-cause survival was significantly different (75% versus 45%, p < 0.0001), after propensity score matching, all-cause survival using Cox regression was no longer different for the combined cohorts (p = 0.74) or separately for I-ELCAP (p = 1.00) and IELCART (p = 0.62). Conclusions: This first prospectively collected cohort analysis of long-term survival of small, early NSCLCs revealed that lung cancer-specific survival was high for both treatments and not significantly different (p = 0.48) and that all-cause survival after propensity matching was not significantly different (p = 0.74). This supports SBRT as an alternative treatment option for small, early NSCLCs which is especially important with their increasing frequency owing to low-dose computed tomography screening. Furthermore, treatment decisions are influenced by many different factors and should be personalized on the basis of the unique circumstances of each patient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-490
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Lung cancer
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Survival
  • Treatment


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