November 05, 2012
2 min read

Supportive spouse may improve lung cancer survival

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Married patients with locally advanced non–small cell lung cancer were likely to survive longer after treatment than patients who were single, according to study results presented at the 2012 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology.

Prior studies have demonstrated decreased survival for single men diagnosed with numerous types of cancer, including prostate and head-and-neck cancers. In addition, a 2011 study of 440,000 Norwegian patients reported that men who never married were 35% more likely to die of cancer than married men, whereas never-married women were 22% more likely to die of cancer than married women.

To evaluate whether marital status represented an independent predictor of outcomes for patients with NSCLC treated with definitive chemotherapy and radiation, Elizabeth Nichols, MD, a radiation oncology resident at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, and colleagues studied 168 patients with stage III NSCLC from 2000 to 2010.

All patients were assessed by a multidisciplinary team before treatment and underwent standard work-up. In addition, all patients received definitive doses of radiation therapy with a median dose of 66.6 Gy.

Chemotherapy was administered along with radiation in 89% of patients, with weekly carboplatin/paclitaxel reported as the most common regimen. After concurrent therapy, patients received two cycles of systemic or consolidative doses of chemotherapy, if carboplatin/paclitaxel was utilized.

According to the study results, married patients exhibited improved survival, with 3-year rates of 33% vs. 10% in single patients (P<.001), and men (35%) demonstrated inferior survival compared with women (13%; P=.004).

“Marital status appears to be an important independent predictor of survival in patients with locally advanced non–small cell lung cancer,” Nichols said in a press release. “The reason for this is unclear, but our findings suggest the importance of social support in managing and treating our lung cancer patients. Patients may need help with day-to-day activities, getting to treatment and making sure they receive proper follow-up care.”

The researchers also observed that single men exhibited the worst OS 3-year rates (3%), whereas married women had the best survival (46%; P=.029). Categorized by race, married whites exhibited superior 3-year survival rates (40%), followed by married blacks (26%) and single patients (11%; P=.005).

“We believe that better supportive care and support mechanisms for cancer patients can have a greater impact on increasing survival than many new cancer therapy techniques,” Nichols said. “Not only do we need to continue to focus on finding new drugs and cancer therapies, but also on ways to better support our cancer patients.”

For more information:

Nichols EM. Abstract #267. Presented at: 2012 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology; Sept. 6-8, 2012; Chicago.

Disclosure: The researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.