Surgery after initial chemotherapy for localized small-cell carcinoma of the lung

C. J. Williams, I. McMillan, R. Lea, G. Mead, J. Thompson, J. Sweetenham, A. Herbert, M. Jefferys, R. Buchanan, J. M. Whitehouse

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37 Scopus citations


Despite the high response rates induced by chemotherapy, many patients with limited small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) relapse at the site of primary disease. Failure of radiotherapy to overcome this has led to the use of surgery as part of a combined modality approach. Between December 1981 and December 1985, 189 patients with SCLC were assessed for suitability for surgery after an initial three cycles of chemotherapy (doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and etoposide). Fifty-seven were found to have limited disease, and of these, 19 were ineligible or unfit for surgery. Of the 38 eligible patients, 84% had an objective response to three cycles of chemotherapy and 25 were deemed suitable for surgery after restaging. At thoracotomy, four were inoperable, nine had a lobectomy, and 12 had a pneumonectomy. There was no evidence of viable SCLC in four resection specimens (one stage 1, two stage 2, one stage 3 at presentation), no viable SCLC but an entirely separate focus of viable poorly differentiated squamous carcinoma (SqLC) in one, and the remaining specimens contained viable SCLC. Survival of patients selected to undergo tumor resection was excellent (median survival, 33 months; plateau phase, 48% alive at 3 to 5 years), but survival of the entire group with limited SCLC was not dissimilar from that reported in previous series of limited-stage tumor treated with chemotherapy alone. Long-term survival appeared to be largely restricted to those with no evidence of viable SCLC at surgery (no viable SCLC, zero of five relapsed; viable SCLC, 13 of 16 relapsed and/or died). This prospective study confirms the feasibility of the combined modality approach, but suggests that any improvement in overall survival is likely to be small. Until the results from multicenter randomized trials are available, surgery, as part of a combined modality program, should be regarded as experimental.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1579-1588
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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