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Eur Respir J. 2010 Jan;35(1):202-15. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00105009.

Treatment of extensive-stage small cell lung carcinoma: current status and future prospects.

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  • 1Dept of Respiratory Medicine, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive lung tumour strongly associated with cigarette smoking, with patients often presenting with metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis. Although SCLC is very chemoradiosensitive and high response rates are obtained with treatment, relapse rates are high and the prognosis remains very poor. In limited-stage SCLC, the overall survival rate has been significantly improved by adding dose-hyperfractionated thoracic radiotherapy and prophylactic cranial irradiation to systemic chemotherapy. In contrast, little progress has been made in the treatment of extensive-stage SCLC (ES-SCLC), apart from the recently documented survival gain by the addition of prophylactic cranial irradiation. First-line therapy in ES-SCLC currently consists of chemotherapy, combining a platinum drug with either etoposide or irinotecan as a possible alternative. New treatments are needed in order to improve the prognosis of ES-SCLC, as median survival with current standard treatment is still only 9-10 months from diagnosis. The present review focuses on the management of ES-SCLC, with special attention to the development of new treatment options.

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