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

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Combination chemotherapy alone

Patients with a contraindication to radiation therapy could be treated with chemotherapy alone. Patients presenting with superior vena cava syndrome are treated immediately with combination chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both, depending on the severity of presentation.[21,22] (Refer to the PDQ summary on Cardiopulmonary Syndromes for more information.)

Surgery followed by chemotherapy or chemoradiation therapy

The role of surgery in the management of patients with SCLC is unproven. Small case series and population studies have reported favorable outcomes for the minority of LD patients with very limited disease, with small tumors pathologically confined to the lung of origin or the lung and ipsilateral hilar lymph nodes from surgical resection with adjuvant chemotherapy.[23,24,25,26,27][Level of evidence: 3iiiDii] Patients who have undergone surgery and then been diagnosed with SCLC generally receive adjuvant chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy. In patients who receive chemotherapy with radiation therapy, there is no improvement in survival with the addition of surgery.[27][Level of evidence: 3iiiDii] Given the absence of data from randomized trials, the role of surgery in the management of individual patients with SCLC must be considered, both in terms of potential benefit and risk from the surgical procedure.

Evidence (role of surgery):

  1. A randomized study evaluating the role of surgery in addition to chemoradiation therapy enrolled 328 patients with LD SCLC and found no OS benefit with the addition of pulmonary resection.[28][Level of evidence: 1iiA]

Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI)

Patients who have achieved a complete remission can be considered for administration of PCI. Patients whose cancer can be controlled outside the brain have a 60% actuarial risk of developing central nervous system (CNS) metastases within 2 to 3 years after starting treatment.[27,29,30] The majority of these patients relapse only in their brain, and nearly all of those who relapse in their CNS die of their cranial metastases. The risk of developing CNS metastases can be reduced by more than 50% by the administration of PCI.[29]

Evidence (role of PCI):

  1. A meta-analysis of seven randomized trials evaluating the value of PCI in patients in complete remission reported improvement in brain recurrence, disease-free survival, and OS with the addition of PCI. The 3-year OS was improved from 15% to 21% with PCI.[29][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
  2. A randomized study (RTOG-0212) of 720 patients with LD SCLC in complete remission after chemoradiation therapy demonstrated that standard-dose PCI (25 Gy in 10 fractions) was as effective as and less toxic than higher doses of brain radiation.[31]
  3. Randomized trials such as EORTC-22003-08004 and IFCT 99-01 have shown that doses higher than 25 Gy in 10 daily fractions do not improve long-term survival.[31,32,33]
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