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Paul A. Bunn, Jr, MD


Small-Cell Lung Cancer: Therapeutic Changes

March 01, 2007

Almost 40% of patients with newly diagnosed small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) have disease confined to the ipsilateral hemithorax and within a single radiation port, ie, limited-stage disease. The median survival for this group of patients after treatment is approximately 15 months, with one in every four patients surviving 2 years. Current optimal treatment consists of chemotherapy with platinum/etoposide, given concurrently with thoracic radiation. Surgery may represent an option for very early-stage disease, but its added value is uncertain. Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) is used for patients with limited-stage SCLC who have achieved a complete response following initial therapy, as it decreases the risk of brain metastases and provides an overall survival benefit. Newer targeted agents are currently being evaluated in this disease and hold the promise of improving current outcomes seen in patients with early-stage disease.

From Radiotherapy to Targeted Therapy: 20 Years in the Management of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

November 01, 2006

Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Before 1980, radiotherapy was considered the only real recourse in advanced disease. In 1995, a landmark meta-analysis of trials conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s demonstrated a survival benefit with platinum-based chemotherapy. Newer chemotherapy agents and improved supportive care measures have allowed more patients to benefit from chemotherapy with reduced toxicity. Concurrent platinum-based chemotherapy and radiotherapy has improved the survival in stage III disease, and recently chemotherapy has also demonstrated improved survival in resected early-stage disease. The majority of patients still present with advanced unresec disease for whom the prognosis remains poor, but for key subpopulations the outlook has improved markedly since the emergence of targeted therapies directed against the epidermal growth factor receptor and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor pathways. Patient selection and the incorporation of targeted therapies with cytotoxic chemotherapy are the focus of many ongoing studies, and there is an abundance of new agents undergoing clinical trials. Together, these developments have moved us away from the nihilism of 20 years ago into an era of unprecedented optimism in taking on the many remaining challenges of managing NSCLC in the 21st century.

Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Resected Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer

November 01, 2005

Because of the high rate of distant disease recurrence, the 5-yearsurvival of patients who have undergone complete surgical resectionof localized non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is approximately 50%.Initial results from early studies of adjuvant postoperative chemotherapyreported an adverse effect of alkylating agent and older chemotherapyregimens on survival. Cisplatin-based combinations were the first toshow a survival advantage. A 1995 meta-analysis of these studies suggesteda 13% reduction in the hazard ratio for death (HR = 0.87), leadingto a 5% survival benefit at 5 years. Still, these trials involved limitednumbers of patients (N = 1,394), and the results failed to reach statisticalsignificance (P = .08). Of the five largest subsequent randomizedtrials of platinum-based adjuvant therapy, three showed a significantsurvival advantage. Although it is impossible to determine the reasonsfor the differing outcomes of these studies, several key features distinguishthem, and the data suggest that medically fit patients with resectedstage IB or II NSCLC should be offered chemotherapy with a platinum/new drug combination.

The Emerging Role of Paclitaxel Plus Carboplatin in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer

September 01, 1999

The activity and toxicity profiles of carboplatin (Paraplatin) and paclitaxel (Taxol) used as single agents in non–small-cell lung cancer made them logical agents for study in combination therapy. Once preliminary trials