Radiation and Systemic Therapy for Limited-Stage Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Jeffrey A. Bogart, Saiama N. Waqar, Michael D. Mix

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Progress in the overall treatment of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) has moved at a slower pace than non–small-cell lung cancer. In fact, the standard treatment regimen for limited stage SCLC has not appreciably shifted in more than 20 years, consisting of four to six cycles of cisplatin and etoposide chemotherapy concurrent with thoracic radiotherapy (TRT) followed by prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) for responsive disease. Nevertheless, long-term outcomes have improved with median survival approaching 25-30 months, and approximately one third of patients now survive 5 years. This is likely attributable in part to improvements in staging, including use of brain magnetic resonance imaging and fluorodeoxyglucose–positron emission tomography imaging, advances in radiation treatment planning, and supportive care. The CONVERT and CALGB 30610 phase III trials failed to demonstrate a survival advantage for high-dose, once-daily TRT compared with standard 45 Gy twice-daily TRT, although high-dose, once-daily TRT remains common in practice. A phase III comparison of high-dose 60 Gy twice-daily TRT versus 45 Gy twice-daily TRT aims to confirm the provocative outcomes reported with 60 Gy twice daily in the phase II setting. Efforts over time have shifted from intensifying PCI, to attempting to reduce treatment-related neurotoxicity, to more recently questioning whether careful magnetic resonance imaging surveillance may obviate the routine need for PCI. The addition of immunotherapy has resulted in mixed success in extensive-stage SCLC with modest benefit observed with programmed death-ligand 1 inhibitors, and several ongoing trials assess programmed death-ligand 1 inhibition concurrent or adjuvant to chemoradiotherapy in limited-stage SCLC. Major advances in future treatment will likely depend on a better understanding and exploiting of molecular characteristics of SCLC with increasing personalization of therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-670
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 20 2022


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