Background: Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for Americans. As most patients present with nonsurgically curable disease, major efforts have been made in the treatment of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with chemotherapy. Several new agents and new combinations of chemotherapy are available.
Methods: The author reviews randomized clinical trials investigating chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC in chemotherapy-naive patients, in patients who present with relapsed or progressive disease, and in elderly patients. Therapies that incorporate new biological agents to target specific aberrations in lung cancer are discussed.
Results: Several clinical trials demonstrate improvement in overall survival as well as quality of life with chemotherapy treatment of advanced NSCLC. Better options are available for patients who have relapsed after first-line chemotherapy, and treatment of elderly patients with chemotherapy has demonstrated benefit in survival and quality of life. New agents that target molecular pathways are being tested in patients with early-stage disease.
Conclusions: Despite progress with newer agents for the treatment of advanced NSCLC, only 14% of patients with the disease are alive at 5 years after initial diagnosis. New therapies are needed.