Small cell lung cancer: state-of-the-art therapy in 1996

Chest. 1997 Oct;112(4 Suppl):251S-258S. doi: 10.1378/chest.112.4_supplement.251s.


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) occurs almost exclusively in smokers and represents 15 to 25% of all lung cancer histologic findings. It is distinguished from non-small cell lung cancer by its rapid tumor doubling time, high growth fraction, and early development of widespread metastases. Since patients with SCLC usually present with disseminated disease, treatment strategies have focused on systemic therapy. Single-agent and combination chemotherapy, as well as combined-modality therapy, have produced high response rates (80 to 100% for limited disease; 60 to 80% for extensive disease), but these tend to be short-lived (median duration, 6 to 8 months). Survival beyond 5 years occurs in only 3 to 8% of all patients with SCLC. At least 15 to 20 different chemotherapeutic agents have shown major activity against SCLC in both the untreated and relapsed settings, including etoposide, teniposide, cisplatin, carboplatin, ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and doxorubicin. This paper reviews state-of-the-art treatment strategies being employed in the treatment of SCLC, including those incorporating high-dose intensive therapy, salvage therapy, new agents, thoracic radiotherapy, prophylactic cranial radiotherapy, surgical resection, and biologic response modifiers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / standards
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Mortality
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pneumonectomy / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents