Purpose: This guideline is for the management of patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and is based on currently available information. As part of the guideline, an evidence-based review of the literature was commissioned that enables the reader to assess the evidence as we have attempted to put the clinical implications into perspective.
Methods: We conducted a comprehensive review of the available literature and the previous American College of Chest Physicians guidelines of SCLC. Controversial and less understood areas of the management of SCLC were then subject to an exhaustive review of the literature and detail analyses. Experts in evidence-based analyses compiled the accompanying systematic review titled “Evidence for Management of SCLC.” The evidence was then assessed by a panel of experts to incorporate “clinical relevance.” The resultant guidelines were then scored according to the grading system outlined by the American College of Chest Physicians grading system task force.
Results: SCLC accounts for 13 to 20% of all lung cancers. Highly smoking related and initially responsive to treatment, it leads to death rapidly in 2 to 4 months without treatment. SCLC is staged as limited-stage and extensive-stage disease. Limited-stage disease is treated with curative intent with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with approximately 20% of patients achieving a cure. For all patients with limited-stage disease, median survival is 16 to 22 months. Extensive-stage disease is primarily treated with chemotherapy with a high initial response rate of 60 to 70% but with a median survival of 10 months. All patients achieving a complete remission should be offered prophylactic cranial irradiation. Relapsed or refractory SCLC has a uniformly poor prognosis.
Conclusion: In this section, evidence-based guidelines for the staging and treatment of SCLC are outlined. Limited-stage SCLC is treated with curative intent. Extensive-stage SCLC has high initial responses to chemotherapy but with an ultimately dismal prognosis with few survivors beyond 2 years.