Non-smokers with Lung Cancer Respond Better To Treatment Than Smokers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Lung Cancer Treatment and Smoking

Smoking history contributes to poor outcomes in the treatment of lungcancer, according to a new study. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)lung cancer patients who have never smoked before in their life havebetter overall survival rates and respond better to chemotherapy thancurrent or former smokers. Published in the June 1, 2006 issue ofCANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, thestudy also reveals that smoking status during treatment has no affecton clinical outcome.

Cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor fordeveloping lung cancer, one of most common and aggressive malignanciesin the world. In 2005, over 170,000 Americans were diagnosed with lungcancer and over 160,000 patients died. The five-year survival rate fromlung cancer is less than 20 percent at best. NSCLC causes the majorityof lung cancers, and if cured, the survivor has up to a 4 percentannual risk of developing another tumor.


Despite the association of lung cancer with cigarettes,diagnosed patients continue to smoke. However, physicians remain unableto tell their patients how that will impact their cancer treatment.Previous studies have failed to agree on whether smoking status impactsthe outcome of chemotherapy or chemotherapy and thoracic irradiation.

Led by Anne S. Tsao, M.D. of the University of Texas M. D.Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, researchers reviewed the medicalrecords of 1370 patients with NSCLC who were treated with chemotherapyor chemo-radiation to determine an association between smoking andtreatment response and survival.

The researchers found that patients who never smoked had abetter response to the chemotherapy; developed less disease progressionduring therapy; and showed improved survival over former and currentsmokers. They say the finding may be due to non-smokers having lessgenetic damage compared to smokers, being less likely to have otherailments that would affect survival, and having better preserved lungfunction. The authors write that "Continued efforts at preventingsmoking initiation are a critical public health issue and emphasize theneed for chemoprevention for smokers and primary-prevention protocolsto prevent smoking."