INTRODUCTION: Lung cancer (LC) is the most common cause of cancer death in the world and associated with significant economic burden. We conducted a review of published literature to identify prognostic factors associated with LC survival and determine which may be modifiable and could be targeted to improve outcomes.
METHODS: The exceptionally large volume of LC prognostic research required a new staged approach to reviewing the literature. This comprised an initial mapping review of existing reviews or meta-analyses, based on titles and abstracts, followed by an overview of systematic reviews evaluating factors that independently contribute to lung cancer survival. The overview of reviews was based on full text papers and incorporated a more in-depth assessment of reviews evaluating modifiable factors.
RESULTS: A large volume of published systematic reviews and meta-analyses were identified, but very few focused on modifiable factors for LC survival. Several modifiable factors were identified, which are potential candidates for targeted interventions aiming to improve cancer outcomes. The mapping review included 398 reviews, of which 207 investigated the independent effect of prognostic factors on lung cancer survival. The most frequently evaluated factors were novel biomarkers (86 biomarkers in 138 reviews). Only 15 modifiable factors were investigated in 20 reviews. Those associated with significant survival improvement included normal BMI/less weight loss, good performance status, not smoking/quitting after diagnosis, good pre-treatment quality of life, small gross volume tumour, early-stage tumour, lung resection undertaken by a thoracic/cardiothoracic surgeon, care being discussed by a multidisciplinary team, and timeliness of care.
CONCLUSIONS: The study utilised a novel approach for reviewing an extensive and complicated body of research evidence. It enabled us to address a broad research question and focus on a specific area of priority. The staged approach ensured the review remained relevant to the stakeholders throughout, whilst maintaining the use of objective and transparent methods. It also provided important information on the needs of future research. However, it required extensive planning, management, and ongoing reviewer training.