Lung cancer--where are we today? Current advances in staging and nonsurgical treatment

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002 Nov 1;166(9):1166-96. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200202-070SO.


Lung cancer remains the commonest cause of cancer death in both men and women in the developed world, although mortality rates for men are dropping. Spiral computed tomography (CT) of the chest in middle-aged, smoking subjects may identify two to four times more lung cancers than a chest X-ray, with more than 70% of tumors being Stage I. The incidence of benign nodules is high, making interpretation difficult. Randomized controlled trials are required to determine whether spiral CT detects lung cancer early enough to improve mortality. Preoperative staging has relied on CT scans, but positron emission tomography scanning has greater sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy than CT and is recommended as the final confirmatory investigation when the CT shows resectable disease. In locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, there is a small advantage for the addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy, but no advantage for postoperative radiotherapy. Chemotherapy gives no benefit when given as neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment around surgery. In advanced disease, newer cytotoxic agents confer a small survival advantage over older combinations, but the advantage in median survival over best supportive care remains a few months with modest improvements in quality of life. Survival with small cell lung cancer has shown little increase over the last 15 years despite multiple attempts to manipulate the timing, dose intensity of chemotherapy, and the potential of radiotherapy. Novel therapies are urgently needed for all cell types of lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / radiotherapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / organization & administration*
  • Medical Oncology / trends
  • Neoplasm Staging / trends*
  • Time Factors