Small cell lung cancer is usually sensitive to chemotherapy. With treatment consisting of combination chemotherapy the average life span of patients with limited stage small cell lung cancer is about 12 months. About 10 to 15 percent of patients live beyond 2 years. Aboout 80 percent of all patients who receive chemotherapy will have some type of response to treatment with chemotherapy. Most active chemotherapy drugs in small cell lung cancer include cisplatin and etoposide (VP-16).
Chemotherapy in combination with radiation therapy
Treatment of small cell lung cancer is much more effective if the chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy. The treatment works best if chemotherapy is given concurrently (at the same time) the patient is receiving radiation therapy. Patient may receive additional doses of chemotherapy once the radiation therapy is completed. The most commonly used chemotherapy
drugs are cisplantin and etoposide (VP-16). There is some evidence from the clinical trials to suggest that early treatment of limited stage non-small cell lung cancer can reduce the risk of distant metastasis. Some recent clinical trials have suggested that twice daily radiation therapy as opposed to single daily radiation dose may be a better option. This treatment regimen has resulted in an average life span of 23 months for patients with limited stage small cell lung cancer (New England Journal of Medicine Jan 1999). Chemotherapy beyond four cycles may not have a favorable effect on survival. The standard recommendation for the treatment of limited stage small cell lung cancer is concurrent administration of chemotherapy with radiation therapy. Twice daily schedule of radiation therapy may be considered if possible as the radiation therapy option. Recommended chemotherapy drugs are cisplatin and etoposide (VP-16). If patient can not take cisplatin for some problems, carpboplatin may be an alternate option in place of cisplatin.