Importance: Although thoracic twice-daily radiotherapy (TDRT) is one of the standards of care for small cell lung cancer, its association with brain metastases remains unknown. Objective: To investigate the association of TDRT vs once-daily radiotherapy (ODRT) with brain metastases after prophylactic cranial irradiation in patients with small cell lung cancer. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this multicenter cohort study, data on 778 consecutive patients with small cell lung cancer who had undergone thoracic radiotherapy (609 received ODRT and 169 received TDRT), chemotherapy, and prophylactic cranial irradiation were retrieved from the databases of 8 hospitals in China between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2016. A 1:1 propensity score matching approach was used to control for confounding between the ODRT and TDRT groups. Confounding covariates included 8 demographic variables and 8 treatment-related covariates. Data analysis was conducted from November 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018, and reanalyzed for revision. Exposures: The ODRT group received 50 to 66 Gy given in 25 to 33 fractions. The TDRT group received 45 Gy given in 30 fractions. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was brain metastases. Secondary end points included progression-free survival and overall survival. Results: Of the 778 patients (median age, 55 years [interquartile range, 48-61 years]), 204 were women and 574 were men. At a median follow-up of 23.6 months (interquartile range, 14.2-38.2 months), 131 patients (16.8%) experienced brain metastases. The rate of brain metastasis at 3 years in the TDRT group was significantly higher than in the ODRT group (26.0% vs 16.9%; hazard ratio, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.06-2.26; P = .03). Of the 338 matched patients (169 in the ODRT group vs 169 in the TDRT group), 60 (17.8%) experienced brain metastases, with a rate at 3 years of 14.9% in the ODRT group vs 26.0% in the TDRT group (hazard ratio, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.02-2.88; P = .04). Progression-free survival was similar in both the whole cohort and the matched cohort. Median overall survival in the ODRT group tended to be significantly longer than in the TDRT group after matching (47.2 vs 32.8 months; hazard ratio, 1.41; 95% CI, 0.99-2.01; P = .06). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, patients with small cell lung cancer who received thoracic TDRT appeared to have a higher risk of brain metastases than those who received ODRT, which supports the need for further prospective randomized clinical trials, especially in China and other parts of Asia.
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