Surgical, Radiation, and Systemic Treatments of Patients With Thymic Epithelial Tumors: A Systematic Review Journal Articles uri icon

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  • INTRODUCTION: Thymic epithelial tumors are rare and are classified as thymoma, thymic carcinoma, and thymic neuroendocrine tumors. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the treatment options for patients with thymic epithelial tumors. METHODS: This systematic review was developed by Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario)'s Program in Evidence-Based Care and by the Lung Cancer Disease Site Group. MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies comparing surgical, radiotherapy, or systemic treatments against any combination of these treatments in patients with thymic epithelial tumors. Meta-analyses were conducted with clinically homogenous studies. RESULTS: A total of 106 studies were included, mainly from observational studies. There was an overall survival benefit with postoperative radiotherapy for patients with thymic carcinoma (hazard ratio = 0.65, 95% confidence interval: 0.47-0.89) and for patients with thymoma (hazard ratio = 0.70, 95% confidence interval: 0.59-0.82), especially for those with a high risk for mortality. Patients with thymic carcinoma or thymoma had a response to chemotherapy. Selection bias affected the results for studies that evaluated neoadjuvant chemotherapy or minimally invasive surgical techniques. Furthermore, the overall survival benefit found for adjuvant chemotherapy may have been confounded by the administration of postoperative radiotherapy. CONCLUSIONS: For patients with thymoma or thymic carcinoma, the literature is of low quality and subject to bias. There were overall survival benefits with postoperative radiotherapy. The results of this systematic review were used to inform treatment recommendations in a clinical practice guideline. Future large-scale prospective studies that control for confounders are needed.


  • Falkson, Conrad B
  • Vella, Emily T
  • Ellis, Peter
  • Maziak, Donna E
  • Ung, Yee C
  • Yu, Edward

publication date

  • March 2023