Background: Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains a treatable but incurable disease.
Methods: A MEDLINE search was performed to identify pertinent peer-reviewed articles that addressed the questions posed for this section. The writing committee developed and graded recommendations, which were subsequently approved by the American College of Chest Physicians.
Results: Platinum-based doublets remain the standard of care in patients with good performance status (PS); there is no evidence that the addition of a third cytotoxic agent improves survival. Likewise, with only one exception, the addition of a new targeted or biological agent to platinum-based doublets does not improve survival. The one exception is the addition of bevacizumab, an antiangiogenic agent, to carboplatin/paclitaxel in patients with stage IV disease and good PS. Patients for whom bevacizumab is recommended must also be selected on the basis of histology (nonsquamous), absence of brain metastases and hemoptysis, and no indication for therapeutic anticoagulation. In patients with stage IV NSCLC and PS of 2, chemotherapy is recommended, but the optimal approach has not been defined. Elderly patients, defined as ≥ 70 years old, also derive benefit from chemotherapy. Most elderly patients should receive single-agent chemotherapy, but elderly patients with good PS and without significant comorbidities seem to derive a similar benefit from platinum-based doublets compared with their younger counterparts without a prohibitive difference in treatment toxicities. Because stage IV NSCLC is incurable, quality-of-life issues are important, and tools exist to monitor a patient’s quality of life during therapy. Last, patients need to be informed of the implication of the diagnosis of stage IV NSCLC and be educated about treatment options that are available to them.
Conclusions: Advances have been made in stage IV NSCLC, and the appropriate use of chemotherapy continues to evolve on the basis of well-designed clinical trials that address critical issues in this population.