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Lung Cancer Health Center

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


Neurologic sequelae

Retrospective studies have shown that long-term survivors of SCLC (>2 years from the start of treatment) have a high incidence of CNS impairment.[27,30,34,35,36] Prospective studies have shown that patients treated with PCI do not have significantly worse neuropsychological function than patients not treated.[36] The majority of patients with SCLC have neuropsychological abnormalities present before the start of PCI and have no detectable decline in their neurological status for as long as 2 years after the start of their PCI.[36] Patients treated for SCLC continue to have declining neuropsychologic function after 2 years from the start of treatment.[34,35,36] Additional neuropsychologic testing of patients beyond 2 years from the start of treatment will be needed before concluding that PCI does not contribute to the decline in intellectual function.

Treatment options for older patients

The optimal therapeutic approach in older patients remains unclear. A population analysis showed that increasing age was associated with a decreased performance status and increased comorbidity.[37] Older patients were less likely to be treated with combined chemoradiation therapy, more intensive chemotherapy, and PCI. Older patients were also less likely to respond to therapy and had poorer survival outcomes. Whether this was a result of age and its associated comorbidities or suboptimal treatment delivery remains uncertain.

No specific phase III trial in older patients with LD SCLC has been reported; however, three secondary analyses of two cooperative group trials have been published evaluating outcomes in patients aged 70 years or older.[38,39,40] The survival outcomes for the older patients were identical to their younger counterparts in both trials. The older patients experienced more toxic effects, particularly hematologic, compared with younger patients. There was a significant increase in treatment-related mortality in the EST-3588 trial that compared etoposide and cisplatin with either once-daily or twice-daily radiation therapy (1% for patients aged <70 years vs. 10% for patients aged ≥70 years; P = .01).[39] Because the older patients enrolled in these phase III trials may not be representative of LD SCLC patients in the general population, caution must be exercised in extrapolating these results to the general population of older patients.

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