Treatment of small-cell lung cancer in elderly patients



Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) represents 15% to 20% of all lung carcinomas. Approximately 30% to 40% of these cases are diagnosed in patients older than 70 years of age. Staging of SCLC classifies patients as having either limited or extensive-stage disease. The standard treatment for limited-stage disease is platinum-based chemotherapy, combined with external-beam thoracic radiotherapy, whereas platinum-based regimens alone represent the standard of care for extensive-stage disease. In the elderly population, treatment of SCLC is more challenging given the decline in physiological organ reserve and the presence of comorbidities. The majority of data are drawn from retrospective studies, which are likely to suffer from selection bias. However, limited prospective data are available to guide treatment decisions in that special population. Nonetheless, these data demonstrate that standard approaches are feasible in carefully selected elderly patients. The purpose of this article is to review the currently available evidence on treatment of SCLC in patients older than 65-70 years of age. Cancer 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society.