Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Small-Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
The most effective treatment for small-cell lung cancer is chemotherapy (using medications to kill cancer cells), either alone or in combination with radiation therapy (using high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells).
Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. These medications may be taken by mouth (orally), but they are usually injected into a vein (IV).
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel throughout the body, and kill cancer cells wherever they are. However, some normal cells are also killed. This is responsible for some of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is usually given at intervals to ensure that the bone marrow has recovered before the next dose of chemotherapy is given.
Extensive research and clinical trials have identified different chemotherapy medications for the treatment of small-cell lung cancer. Response rates with these medications have been found to be at least 80% in previously untreated patients.
Some drugs are used alone, while some are used in combination with others for greater effectiveness. An oncologist (cancer specialist) recommends chemotherapy specific to the patient’s condition.
Chemotherapy medications used for the treatment of small-cell lung cancer include the following:
- Etoposide (Toposar, VePesid). It slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body by causing breakage in the DNA (genetic material) strand. It may be given as an IV injection or as a pill.
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) interferes with the growth of normal cells and cancer cells. It slows the growth of cancer cells and their spread in the body. It may be given as an IV injection or as a pill.
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Rubex) causes destruction of DNA, which slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is an IV medication.
- Vincristine (Oncovin) is a plant-based compound. It causes cell death by interfering with the way genetic material (DNA) multiplies in the cell. It is only available as an IV medication.
- Topotecan (Hycamtin) interferes with the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting the duplication of DNA. It can be given through an IV or as a pill.
- Cisplatin (Platinol) causes breakage in the DNA (genetic material) strand and interferes with cell growth. It is an IV medication.
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin) is similar to cisplatin. It also causes breakage in the DNA (genetic material) strand and interferes with cell growth. Its effectiveness is similar to cisplatin, but it is better tolerated with less side effects.
- Irinotecan (Camptosar) acts in a similar manner as topotecan to decrease cancer cell growth by causing damage to cancer cell DNA. It is an IV medication.
Commonly used chemotherapy regimens in small-cell lung cancer include the following:
- CAV (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin [Adriamycin], and vincristine)
- PE (cisplatin and etoposide)
- CAVE (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin [Adriamycin], vincristine, and etoposide)
- EC (etoposide and carboplatin)
- Topotecan alone
- Etoposide alone
- Cisplatin and irinotecan