Locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer: the place of specialist thoracic surgery in the multidisciplinary team

Muteb Al Zaidi, Gavin M. Wright


One reason that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, is that surgical intervention is highly dependent on earlier tumor stage and good patient condition. As large proportion of cases are already metastatic at presentation and many are locally advanced, curative surgery is only possible in a minority of fit patients. Increasing the number of patients achieving complete resection is one of the avenues to increase overall survival using our existing technology. In the past, complex cases may have been sporadically discussed between various specialists in order to achieve better outcomes. More recently, the idea of discussing those cases on a routine basis, rather than an accident of geography or referral pattern, gave rise to the multidisciplinary team. Lung cancer management is now increasingly complex, especially with novel modalities such as targeted therapies, immune checkpoint inhibitors and stereotactic body radiotherapy delivery. Likewise, in thoracic surgery, minimally invasive techniques, early recovery after surgery protocols and complex techniques for resecting locally advanced tumours or preserving lung parenchyma must all be deployed appropriately to continue our incremental gains in survival and quality of life. To highlight the role of specialist thoracic surgeon in the multidisciplinary care of locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, we conducted a search of English language publications for its multidisciplinary-based surgical management. We limited our search to the last decade, then hand-searched relevant references. In addition, we used our large prospective database as a team-oriented specialized thoracic surgical service to benchmark and demonstrate the benefits of specialist surgeons in the modern multidisciplinary team. In conclusion, patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer should have any surgical option withheld without a specialist thoracic surgical opinion as part of the multidisciplinary team discussion.