Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine malignancy with a unique natural history characterized by a short doubling time, high growth fraction, and early development of widespread metastases. Although a chemotherapy- and radiation-sensitive disease, SCLC typically recurs rapidly after primary treatment, with only 6% of patients surviving 5 years from diagnosis. This disease has been notable for the absence of major improvements in its treatment: Nearly four decades after the introduction of a platinum-etoposide doublet, therapeutic options have remained virtually unchanged, with correspondingly little improvement in survival rates. Here, we summarize specific barriers and challenges inherent to SCLC research and care that have limited progress in novel therapeutic development to date. We discuss recent progress in basic and translational research, especially in the development of mouse models, which will provide insights into the patterns of metastasis and resistance in SCLC. Opportunities in clinical research aimed at exploiting SCLC biology are reviewed, with an emphasis on ongoing trials. SCLC has been described as a recalcitrant cancer, for which there is an urgent need for accelerated progress. The NCI convened a panel of laboratory and clinical investigators interested in SCLC with a goal of defining consensus recommendations to accelerate progress in the treatment of SCLC, which we summarize here.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.