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Benjamin Levy, Ashish Saxena, and Bryan J. Schneider

Small cell lung cancer is an aggressive tumor characterized by genetic complexity, rapid doubling time, and early development of disseminated disease. Unfortunately, few chemotherapeutic advances have been made in the treatment of extensive-stage disease, and cisplatin/etoposide has remained the standard of care for more than 30 years. Other regimens with comparable efficacy include cisplatin/irinotecan and carboplatin/etoposide. Each of these combinations is associated with a different toxicity profile that must be considered when selecting an initial regimen. Several strategies, including maintenance chemotherapy, 3-drug combinations, alternating combination chemotherapy regimens, and high-dose chemotherapy, have consistently failed to demonstrate improvements in survival when compared with 4 to 6 cycles of platinum doublets. Several options are available for patients who experience progression during or relapse after induction therapy, although topotecan is the only FDA-approved agent for second-line treatment. Recently, scientific efforts have identified potentially actionable genetic alterations in small cell tumors that may lead to the development of effective, targeted therapies.

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Bryan J. Schneider, Ashish Saxena, and Robert J. Downey

Limited-stage small cell lung cancer remains one of the more frustrating malignancies to treat. Current standard of care typically includes platinum-based chemotherapy with thoracic radiation, and although response to therapy is high, most patients will ultimately experience relapse and die of recurrent disease. No high-level data exist supporting surgical resection of early-stage disease; however, several retrospective reviews and small single-arm studies suggest surgery may benefit patients with very limited extent of disease. This article reviews the available literature, and proposes guidelines for including potentially curative resection in the management of patients with limited-stage small cell lung cancer.