Screening with Low-Dose Computed Tomography Does Not Improve Survival of Small Cell Lung Cancer

J Thorac Oncol. 2016 Feb;11(2):187-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2015.10.014. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Introduction: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) constitutes a distinct component of symptomatic or advanced-stage lung cancers in clinical practice and in lung cancer screening trials. The purpose of this study was to describe the outcome of SCLC in lung cancer screening trials and compare the frequency of SCLC in our cohort with that in the major lung cancer screening trials.

Methods: Subjects with a diagnosis of SCLC were selected from two lung cancer screening trials by low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), and their demographic characteristics, clinical parameters, tumor stage at diagnosis, therapy, and survival times were recorded. Survival curves were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: Ten cases of SCLC were reported in 45,141 person-years (22 in 100,000 person-years), representing the 6% of all lung cancer cases. Cumulative tobacco consumption was 82 pack-years compared with 39 and 46 pack-years for the overall study population and subjects with non-SCLC, respectively. Most of the neoplasms were in an advanced stage (seven in stage IV and one each in stages IIIb, IIIa, and Ia). Two subjects were treated with lobectomy for curative purposes and died of diffuse metastasis within 2 years of diagnosis. The median overall survival time in the LDCT arms was 20.6 months, with no survivors remaining at 3 years.

Conclusions: Subjects in whom SCLC develops are a subgroup of smokers with extremely high cumulative tobacco consumption. Consequently, the frequency of SCLC in our population was lower than in other screening populations, with higher cumulative tobacco consumption. Screening for lung cancer by LDCT does not improve survival of SCLC, with no survivors remaining at 3 years after diagnosis.

Keywords: Early detection of cancer; Mean survival time; Screening; Small cell lung cancer; Smoking cessation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / etiology
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / mortality
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / pathology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*