Present standards and future perspectives in the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2015 Jun;34(2):173-82. doi: 10.1007/s10555-015-9560-6.


The development of novel effective immunotherapeutic agents and early clinical data hinting at significant activity in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has introduced yet another player in the field of management of advanced disease. At present, first-line cytotoxic chemotherapy is generally withheld pending results of molecular testing for any actionable genetic alteration that could lead to targeted treatment, and in their absence chemotherapy is prescribed as a default therapy. Phase III trials comparing head-to-head immune checkpoint inhibitors with standard platinum-based doublet chemotherapy are underway. Second-line chemotherapy is likewise being challenged in phase III trials, one of which having recently reported positive results in advanced squamous cell carcinoma. In tumors harboring actionable transforming genetic alterations such as EGFR mutations and ALK rearrangements, second- and third-generation inhibitors allow for multiple lines of targeted treatment beyond initial resistance, postponing the use of cytotoxic chemotherapy to very late lines of therapy. Chemotherapy as a longstanding but still present standard of care capable of prolonging survival, improving quality of life, and relieving symptoms sees its role increasingly restricted to clinical, immunological, and molecular subsets of patients where its activity and efficacy have never been tested prospectively.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents