Extending survival of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer

Semin Oncol. 2014 Feb;41(1):69-92. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2013.12.013. Epub 2013 Dec 21.


Most of patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) present with locally advanced or metastatic disease. In this setting the goal of treatment is to prolong survival and to control disease- and treatment-related symptoms. Currently systemic cytotoxic chemotherapy remains the first-line treatment for most patients with stage IV NSCLC, but preferred treatments are now defined by histology and based on the presence of specific molecular abnormalities. In first-line the combination of platinum plus pemetrexed with or without bevacizumab is a reasonable choice in patients with non-squamous NSCLC. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) as first-line therapy are the recommended for patients with EGFR-sensitizing mutations. A small-molecule TKI of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), crizotinib, showed pronounced clinical activity in the treatment of patients with NSCLC positive for EML4-ALK and it has rapidly entered into daily clinical practice. Currently no agents are specifically approved for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. Second-line treatments include docetaxel, pemetrexed, or erlotinib as single agents. There is a growing evidence that cytotoxics are better than EGFR-TKIs in EGFR wild-type patients. In the setting of the third line, the only approved agent is erlotinib. In elderly patients with good performance status (PS), doublet chemotherapy including platinum should not be excluded, especially for those patients 70-75 years of age without comorbidities. The better selection of patients, the identification of specific predictive biomarkers, a reasonable sequencing of all active and available treatments, including targeted therapies and cytotoxic, may significantly contribute to extend the natural history of stage IV NSCLC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors