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


    Palliative therapy

    Patients with central nervous system (CNS) recurrences can often obtain palliation of symptoms with additional chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. A retrospective review showed that 43% of patients treated with additional chemotherapy at the time of CNS relapse responded to second-line chemotherapy.[16] The majority of patients treated with radiation therapy obtain objective responses and improvement following radiation therapy.[17]

    Some patients with intrinsic endobronchial obstructing lesions or extrinsic compression caused by the tumor have achieved successful palliation with endobronchial laser therapy (for endobronchial lesions only) and/or brachytherapy.[18] Expandable metal stents can be safely inserted under local anesthesia via the bronchoscope, which results in improved symptoms and pulmonary function in patients with malignant airways obstruction.[19]

    Patients with progressive intrathoracic tumor after failing initial chemotherapy can achieve significant tumor responses, palliation of symptoms, and short-term local control with external-beam radiation therapy. Only the rare patient, however, will experience long-term survival following salvage radiation therapy.[20]

    Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

    Treatment options under clinical evaluation for patients with recurrent SCLC include phase I and II clinical trials of new drugs.

    Current Clinical Trials

    Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent 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. Davies AM, Evans WK, Mackay JA, et al.: Treatment of recurrent small cell lung cancer. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 18 (2): 387-416, 2004.
    2. Postmus PE, Berendsen HH, van Zandwijk N, et al.: Retreatment with the induction regimen in small cell lung cancer relapsing after an initial response to short term chemotherapy. Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol 23 (9): 1409-11, 1987.
    3. Giaccone G, Donadio M, Bonardi G, et al.: Teniposide in the treatment of small-cell lung cancer: the influence of prior chemotherapy. J Clin Oncol 6 (8): 1264-70, 1988.
    4. Sandler AB: Irinotecan in small-cell lung cancer: the US experience. Oncology (Williston Park) 15 (1 Suppl 1): 11-2, 2001.
    5. van der Lee I, Smit EF, van Putten JW, et al.: Single-agent gemcitabine in patients with resistant small-cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol 12 (4): 557-61, 2001.
    6. Masuda N, Fukuoka M, Kusunoki Y, et al.: CPT-11: a new derivative of camptothecin for the treatment of refractory or relapsed small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 10 (8): 1225-9, 1992.
    7. Perez-Soler R, Glisson BS, Lee JS, et al.: Treatment of patients with small-cell lung cancer refractory to etoposide and cisplatin with the topoisomerase I poison topotecan. J Clin Oncol 14 (10): 2785-90, 1996.
    8. Masters GA, Declerck L, Blanke C, et al.: Phase II trial of gemcitabine in refractory or relapsed small-cell lung cancer: Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Trial 1597. J Clin Oncol 21 (8): 1550-5, 2003.
    9. Eckardt JR, von Pawel J, Pujol JL, et al.: Phase III study of oral compared with intravenous topotecan as second-line therapy in small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 25 (15): 2086-92, 2007.
    10. Ardizzoni A, Hansen H, Dombernowsky P, et al.: Topotecan, a new active drug in the second-line treatment of small-cell lung cancer: a phase II study in patients with refractory and sensitive disease. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Early Clinical Studies Group and New Drug Development Office, and the Lung Cancer Cooperative Group. J Clin Oncol 15 (5): 2090-6, 1997.
    11. Furuse K, Kubota K, Kawahara M, et al.: Phase II study of vinorelbine in heavily previously treated small cell lung cancer. Japan Lung Cancer Vinorelbine Study Group. Oncology 53 (2): 169-72, 1996 Mar-Apr.
    12. Smit EF, Fokkema E, Biesma B, et al.: A phase II study of paclitaxel in heavily pretreated patients with small-cell lung cancer. Br J Cancer 77 (2): 347-51, 1998.
    13. Rocha-Lima CM, Herndon JE 2nd, Lee ME, et al.: Phase II trial of irinotecan/gemcitabine as second-line therapy for relapsed and refractory small-cell lung cancer: Cancer and Leukemia Group B Study 39902. Ann Oncol 18 (2): 331-7, 2007.
    14. von Pawel J, Schiller JH, Shepherd FA, et al.: Topotecan versus cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine for the treatment of recurrent small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 17 (2): 658-67, 1999.
    15. O'Brien ME, Ciuleanu TE, Tsekov H, et al.: Phase III trial comparing supportive care alone with supportive care with oral topotecan in patients with relapsed small-cell lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 24 (34): 5441-7, 2006.
    16. Kristensen CA, Kristjansen PE, Hansen HH: Systemic chemotherapy of brain metastases from small-cell lung cancer: a review. J Clin Oncol 10 (9): 1498-502, 1992.
    17. Carmichael J, Crane JM, Bunn PA, et al.: Results of therapeutic cranial irradiation in small cell lung cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 14 (3): 455-9, 1988.
    18. Miller JI Jr, Phillips TW: Neodymium:YAG laser and brachytherapy in the management of inoperable bronchogenic carcinoma. Ann Thorac Surg 50 (2): 190-5; discussion 195-6, 1990.
    19. Wilson GE, Walshaw MJ, Hind CR: Treatment of large airway obstruction in lung cancer using expandable metal stents inserted under direct vision via the fibreoptic bronchoscope. Thorax 51 (3): 248-52, 1996.
    20. Ochs JJ, Tester WJ, Cohen MH, et al.: "Salvage" radiation therapy for intrathoracic small cell carcinoma of the lung progressing on combination chemotherapy. Cancer Treat Rep 67 (12): 1123-6, 1983.

    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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