Chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer

Semin Oncol. 2003 Feb;30(1):9-25. doi: 10.1053/sonc.2003.50012.


There were approximately 42,000 new cases of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) in 2002. Despite its initial sensitivity to chemotherapy, only 10% of all SCLC patients will have significant long-term survival. Studies have yet to show significant survival advantages for maintenance chemotherapy, and it appears that four to six cycles of chemotherapy is as effective as longer durations. As yet, there is no defined role for dose escalation in the treatment of SCLC. No one chemotherapy combination has exhibited a definitive survival advantage in extensive disease, although it appears that single-agent oral etoposide may be inferior to combination intravenous chemotherapy. In limited disease, however, cisplatin plus etoposide alone or in alternation with cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin/vincristine is superior to other approaches. There are several new agents with significant activity in SCLC awaiting further study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Camptothecin / administration & dosage
  • Camptothecin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / radiotherapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Irinotecan
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Topotecan / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Irinotecan
  • Topotecan
  • Camptothecin