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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Table 2. Combination Chemotherapy For Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer continued...

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy to sites of metastatic disease unlikely to be immediately palliated by chemotherapy, especially brain, epidural, and bone metastases, is a standard treatment option for patients with ED SCLC. Brain metastases are treated with whole-brain radiation therapy.

Chest radiation therapy is sometimes given for superior vena cava syndrome, but chemotherapy alone, with radiation reserved for nonresponding patients, is appropriate initial treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Cardiopulmonary Syndromes for more information.)

Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI)

Patients with ED treated with chemotherapy who have achieved a response can be considered for administration of PCI.

Evidence (PCI):

  1. A randomized trial of 286 patients with response following four to six cycles of chemotherapy compared PCI versus no further therapy with symptomatic brain metastases.[42][Level of evidence: 1iiD
    • The cumulative risk of brain metastases within 1 year was 14.6% in the radiation group (95% CI, 8.3-20.9) and 40.4% in the control group (95% CI, 32.1- 48.6).
    • Radiation was associated with an increase in median DFS from 12.0 weeks to 14.7 weeks and in median OS from 5.4 months to 6.7 months after randomization.
    • The 1-year survival rate was 27.1% (95% CI, 19.4-35.5) in the radiation group and 13.3% (95% CI, 8.1-19.9) in the control group.[42]
    • Radiation had side effects but did not have a clinically significant effect on global health status.[42]

Combination chemotherapy and radiation therapy

Combination chemotherapy plus chest radiation therapy does not appear to improve survival compared with chemotherapy alone in patients with ED SCLC.

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Treatment options under clinical evaluation for patients with ED SCLC include the following:

  • New drug regimens.
  • Alternative drug doses and schedules.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Okamoto H, Watanabe K, Kunikane H, et al.: Randomised phase III trial of carboplatin plus etoposide vs split doses of cisplatin plus etoposide in elderly or poor-risk patients with extensive disease small-cell lung cancer: JCOG 9702. Br J Cancer 97 (2): 162-9, 2007.
  2. Roth BJ, Johnson DH, Einhorn LH, et al.: Randomized study of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine versus etoposide and cisplatin versus alternation of these two regimens in extensive small-cell lung cancer: a phase III trial of the Southeastern Cancer Study Group. J Clin Oncol 10 (2): 282-91, 1992.
  3. Pujol JL, Carestia L, Daurès JP: Is there a case for cisplatin in the treatment of small-cell lung cancer? A meta-analysis of randomized trials of a cisplatin-containing regimen versus a regimen without this alkylating agent. Br J Cancer 83 (1): 8-15, 2000.
  4. Twelves CJ, Souhami RL, Harper PG, et al.: The response of cerebral metastases in small cell lung cancer to systemic chemotherapy. Br J Cancer 61 (1): 147-50, 1990.
  5. Nugent JL, Bunn PA Jr, Matthews MJ, et al.: CNS metastases in small cell bronchogenic carcinoma: increasing frequency and changing pattern with lengthening survival. Cancer 44 (5): 1885-93, 1979.
  6. Amarasena IU, Walters JA, Wood-Baker R, et al.: Platinum versus non-platinum chemotherapy regimens for small cell lung cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4): CD006849, 2008.
  7. Controlled trial of twelve versus six courses of chemotherapy in the treatment of small-cell lung cancer. Report to the Medical Research Council by its Lung Cancer Working Party. Br J Cancer 59 (4): 584-90, 1989.
  8. Noda K, Nishiwaki Y, Kawahara M, et al.: Irinotecan plus cisplatin compared with etoposide plus cisplatin for extensive small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 346 (2): 85-91, 2002.
  9. Hanna N, Bunn PA Jr, Langer C, et al.: Randomized phase III trial comparing irinotecan/cisplatin with etoposide/cisplatin in patients with previously untreated extensive-stage disease small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 24 (13): 2038-43, 2006.
  10. Lara PN Jr, Natale R, Crowley J, et al.: Phase III trial of irinotecan/cisplatin compared with etoposide/cisplatin in extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer: clinical and pharmacogenomic results from SWOG S0124. J Clin Oncol 27 (15): 2530-5, 2009.
  11. Schmittel A, Sebastian M, Fischer von Weikersthal L, et al.: A German multicenter, randomized phase III trial comparing irinotecan-carboplatin with etoposide-carboplatin as first-line therapy for extensive-disease small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 22 (8): 1798-804, 2011.
  12. Zatloukal P, Cardenal F, Szczesna A, et al.: A multicenter international randomized phase III study comparing cisplatin in combination with irinotecan or etoposide in previously untreated small-cell lung cancer patients with extensive disease. Ann Oncol 21 (9): 1810-6, 2010.
  13. Jiang J, Liang X, Zhou X, et al.: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing irinotecan/platinum with etoposide/platinum in patients with previously untreated extensive-stage small cell lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol 5 (6): 867-73, 2010.
  14. Guo S, Liang Y, Zhou Q: Complement and correction for meta-analysis of patients with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer managed with irinotecan/cisplatin versus etoposide/cisplatin as first-line chemotherapy. J Thorac Oncol 6 (2): 406-8; author reply 408, 2011.
  15. Eckardt JR, von Pawel J, Papai Z, et al.: Open-label, multicenter, randomized, phase III study comparing oral topotecan/cisplatin versus etoposide/cisplatin as treatment for chemotherapy-naive patients with extensive-disease small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 24 (13): 2044-51, 2006.
  16. Mavroudis D, Papadakis E, Veslemes M, et al.: A multicenter randomized clinical trial comparing paclitaxel-cisplatin-etoposide versus cisplatin-etoposide as first-line treatment in patients with small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 12 (4): 463-70, 2001.
  17. Niell HB, Herndon JE 2nd, Miller AA, et al.: Randomized phase III intergroup trial of etoposide and cisplatin with or without paclitaxel and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in patients with extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer: Cancer and Leukemia Group B Trial 9732. J Clin Oncol 23 (16): 3752-9, 2005.
  18. Spiro SG, Souhami RL, Geddes DM, et al.: Duration of chemotherapy in small cell lung cancer: a Cancer Research Campaign trial. Br J Cancer 59 (4): 578-83, 1989.
  19. Bleehen NM, Girling DJ, Machin D, et al.: A randomised trial of three or six courses of etoposide cyclophosphamide methotrexate and vincristine or six courses of etoposide and ifosfamide in small cell lung cancer (SCLC). I: Survival and prognostic factors. Medical Research Council Lung Cancer Working Party. Br J Cancer 68 (6): 1150-6, 1993.
  20. Giaccone G, Dalesio O, McVie GJ, et al.: Maintenance chemotherapy in small-cell lung cancer: long-term results of a randomized trial. European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Lung Cancer Cooperative Group. J Clin Oncol 11 (7): 1230-40, 1993.
  21. Sculier JP, Paesmans M, Bureau G, et al.: Randomized trial comparing induction chemotherapy versus induction chemotherapy followed by maintenance chemotherapy in small-cell lung cancer. European Lung Cancer Working Party. J Clin Oncol 14 (8): 2337-44, 1996.
  22. Schiller JH, Adak S, Cella D, et al.: Topotecan versus observation after cisplatin plus etoposide in extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer: E7593--a phase III trial of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol 19 (8): 2114-22, 2001.
  23. Bozcuk H, Artac M, Ozdogan M, et al.: Does maintenance/consolidation chemotherapy have a role in the management of small cell lung cancer (SCLC)? A metaanalysis of the published controlled trials. Cancer 104 (12): 2650-7, 2005.
  24. Cohen MH, Creaven PJ, Fossieck BE Jr, et al.: Intensive chemotherapy of small cell bronchogenic carcinoma. Cancer Treat Rep 61 (3): 349-54, 1977 May-Jun.
  25. Arriagada R, Le Chevalier T, Pignon JP, et al.: Initial chemotherapeutic doses and survival in patients with limited small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 329 (25): 1848-52, 1993.
  26. Fukuoka M, Masuda N, Negoro S, et al.: CODE chemotherapy with and without granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in small-cell lung cancer. Br J Cancer 75 (2): 306-9, 1997.
  27. Woll PJ, Hodgetts J, Lomax L, et al.: Can cytotoxic dose-intensity be increased by using granulocyte colony-stimulating factor? A randomized controlled trial of lenograstim in small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 13 (3): 652-9, 1995.
  28. Steward WP, von Pawel J, Gatzemeier U, et al.: Effects of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and dose intensification of V-ICE chemotherapy in small-cell lung cancer: a prospective randomized study of 300 patients. J Clin Oncol 16 (2): 642-50, 1998.
  29. Thatcher N, Girling DJ, Hopwood P, et al.: Improving survival without reducing quality of life in small-cell lung cancer patients by increasing the dose-intensity of chemotherapy with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor support: results of a British Medical Research Council Multicenter Randomized Trial. Medical Research Council Lung Cancer Working Party. J Clin Oncol 18 (2): 395-404, 2000.
  30. James LE, Gower NH, Rudd RM, et al.: A randomised trial of low-dose/high-frequency chemotherapy as palliative treatment of poor-prognosis small-cell lung cancer: a Cancer research Campaign trial. Br J Cancer 73 (12): 1563-8, 1996.
  31. Pujol JL, Douillard JY, Rivière A, et al.: Dose-intensity of a four-drug chemotherapy regimen with or without recombinant human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor in extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer: a multicenter randomized phase III study. J Clin Oncol 15 (5): 2082-9, 1997.
  32. Ardizzoni A, Tjan-Heijnen VC, Postmus PE, et al.: Standard versus intensified chemotherapy with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor support in small-cell lung cancer: a prospective European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer-Lung Cancer Group Phase III Trial-08923. J Clin Oncol 20 (19): 3947-55, 2002.
  33. Lorigan P, Woll PJ, O'Brien ME, et al.: Randomized phase III trial of dose-dense chemotherapy supported by whole-blood hematopoietic progenitors in better-prognosis small-cell lung cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 97 (9): 666-74, 2005.
  34. Buchholz E, Manegold C, Pilz L, et al.: Standard versus dose-intensified chemotherapy with sequential reinfusion of hematopoietic progenitor cells in small cell lung cancer patients with favorable prognosis. J Thorac Oncol 2 (1): 51-8, 2007.
  35. Girling DJ: Comparison of oral etoposide and standard intravenous multidrug chemotherapy for small-cell lung cancer: a stopped multicentre randomised trial. Medical Research Council Lung Cancer Working Party. Lancet 348 (9027): 563-6, 1996.
  36. Murray N, Grafton C, Shah A, et al.: Abbreviated treatment for elderly, infirm, or noncompliant patients with limited-stage small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 16 (10): 3323-8, 1998.
  37. Westeel V, Murray N, Gelmon K, et al.: New combination of the old drugs for elderly patients with small-cell lung cancer: a phase II study of the PAVE regimen. J Clin Oncol 16 (5): 1940-7, 1998.
  38. Earl HM, Rudd RM, Spiro SG, et al.: A randomised trial of planned versus as required chemotherapy in small cell lung cancer: a Cancer Research Campaign trial. Br J Cancer 64 (3): 566-72, 1991.
  39. Randomised trial of four-drug vs less intensive two-drug chemotherapy in the palliative treatment of patients with small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and poor prognosis. Medical Research Council Lung Cancer Working Party. Br J Cancer 73 (3): 406-13, 1996.
  40. Souhami RL, Spiro SG, Rudd RM, et al.: Five-day oral etoposide treatment for advanced small-cell lung cancer: randomized comparison with intravenous chemotherapy. J Natl Cancer Inst 89 (8): 577-80, 1997.
  41. Sekine I, Yamamoto N, Kunitoh H, et al.: Treatment of small cell lung cancer in the elderly based on a critical literature review of clinical trials. Cancer Treat Rev 30 (4): 359-68, 2004.
  42. Slotman B, Faivre-Finn C, Kramer G, et al.: Prophylactic cranial irradiation in extensive small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 357 (7): 664-72, 2007.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: May 28, 2015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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