• advanced stage;
  • long-term survival;
  • maintenance therapy;
  • non-small cell lung cancer


Background and objective:  Only a small proportion of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have a life expectancy greater than 2 years. The aim of this study was to identify the factors associated with long-term survival of patients with advanced NSCLC.

Methods:  Patients who had received chemotherapy for stage IIIb or IV NSCLC that was not amenable to radiotherapy were studied retrospectively. Data were gathered prospectively from a comprehensive database. Long-term survivors (>2 years) were compared with the other patients, with respect to clinical, biological and tumour–node–metastasis criteria.

Results:  Data for 245 consecutive patients were collected. Thirty nine patients (15.9%) survived for more than 2 years. Long-term survivors were more likely to have had metastases at fewer sites (P = 0.008), an absence of bone metastases (P = 0.01), a performance status (PS) of 0–1 at first progression of the tumour (P = 0.002), a tumour that was controlled with first (P < 0.0001) and second-line (P = 0.004) chemotherapy, maintenance therapy (P = 0.001), curative surgery (P < 0.0001), time to first progression of the tumour of >3 months (P < 0.0001), normal LDH levels at diagnosis (P = 0.049), and a haemoglobin concentration >110 g/L at first progression of the tumour (P = 0.02). In multivariate analysis, surgery, maintenance treatment, time to first progression of the tumour of >3 months, a PS of 0–1 at first progression, the number of chemotherapy agents received, and LDH levels, were significant predictors of long-term survival.

Conclusions:  Assessment of these factors, and the use of maintenance therapy, when possible, may identify a population of patients with NSCLC that is likely to have a prolonged life expectancy.