Thirty years ago, there was a pervasive atmosphere of pessimism concerning the management of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). Surgery or radiation therapy alone resulted in few cures since these techniques utilize a local therapy for a disseminated disease. Chemotherapy remains the backbone of treatment for all patients with SCLC, regardless of stage. For patients with limited-stage disease (LD), the addition of thoracic radiation to chemotherapy is standard. The optimal timing, dose, and schedule of radiation remains undefined. The majority of studies demonstrate equivalent or superior survival for early radiation when compared to delayed radiation. Approximately 50% of patients with LD will achieve a complete remission with chemoradiation and will be candidates for prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI). While phase III trials have failed to demonstrate a statistically significant survival for PCI, brain relapse is clearly reduced, and a metaanalysis reports a small long-term survival advantage favoring patients receiving PCI. Unfortunately, unlike LD SCLC, advances in extensive-stage disease have been elusive, despite the testing of numerous strategies. Four courses of cisplatin (or carboplatin) plus etoposide remain standard first-line therapy. Promising results have been seen with irinotecan/cisplatin, but confirmatory trials are still needed. A plateau has been reached with chemotherapy regimens, and novel strategies are greatly needed to improve survival for patients with SCLC.
- Prophylactic cranial irradiation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine