Since 1977, 119 patients with limited small-cell lung cancer have undergone combined modality therapy including surgery at our institution. Seventy-nine patients (58 male, 21 female; median age 63 years) had surgery first, and 67 of these had adjuvant chemotherapy. Forty (27 male, 13 female; median age 59 years) had chemotherapy first, and 94% had a complete or partial response before the operation. Pretreatment staging revealed 69 stage I, 27 stage II, and 23 stage III tumors. Twenty-six patients required pneumonectomy, 88 lobectomy, and five had no resection. Four patients had gross and six had microscopic residual disease. Postoperative pathologic examination showed small-cell lung cancer only (n = 95), non-small-cell lung cancer (n = 3), mixed (n = 17), and no residual tumor (n = 4). Postoperative staging revealed 35 stage I, 36 stage II, and 48 stage IIIa tumors. The median survival of the entire group is 111 weeks and the projected 5-year survival rate is 39%. No survival difference was seen between patients treated with chemotherapy before the operation and those undergoing an initial operation followed by chemotherapy (p = 0.756). The median survival for patients with pathologic stage I disease has not been reached, and the projected 5-year survival rate is 51%. This is significantly better than for the patients with stage II (median 82 weeks, p = 0.001) or stage III (median 83 weeks, p = 0.001) disease, who have projected 5-year survival rates of 28% and 19%, respectively. Seven of the 12 patients who had no adjuvant chemotherapy remain alive at 6 to 48+ months. Sixty-seven patients have died (11 had no evidence of disease). Only 10 patients had a relapse in the primary site alone, seven at the primary and distant sites, and 39 only in distant sites. In summary, resection improves control at the primary site, and a significant proportion of patients with stage I (N0) disease achieve long-term survival and cure with combined modality therapy including surgery. Stage II and IIIa patients have survival predictions similar to stage IIIa non-small-cell lung carcinoma treated surgically.