Objective: To compare the survival and risk of serious adverse events in older patients with stages II-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer treated with or without postoperative platinum based chemotherapy. Design: Observational cohort study. Setting: Cases of lung cancer in Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registry linked to Medicare files, 1992-2005, and follow-up data to December 2007. Participants: 3324 patients aged more than 65 years with resected stages II-IIIA lung cancer. Main outcome measures: Primary outcome was overall survival and secondary outcome was the rate of serious adverse events among older patients treated with or without adjuvant chemotherapy. Results: Overall, 21% (n=684) of patients received platinum based chemotherapy. Analyses adjusted, stratified, or matched by propensity scores showed that chemotherapy was associated with improved survival (hazard ratio range 0.78-0.81). The beneficial effect of chemotherapy was also observed among patients treated with radiation therapy (0.75-0.77) or without radiation therapy (0.74-0.77); however, chemotherapy was not beneficial for patients aged 80 or more (1.32-1.46). Adjuvant chemotherapy was associated with an increased odds of serious adverse events (odds ratio 2.0, 95% confidence interval 1.5 to 2.6). Conclusions: Platinum based adjuvant chemotherapy is associated with reduced mortality and increased risk of serious adverse events in older patients with stages II-IIIA lung cancer. The magnitude of the benefit is similar to that observed in randomised controlled trials carried out among selected patients.
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