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Keywords:

  • lung cancer;
  • small cell;
  • radiotherapy;
  • chemotherapy;
  • hyperfractionated radiotherapy;
  • accelerated radiotherapy

Approximately 15% of lung cancer cases are of the small cell subtype, but this variant is highly aggressive and is often diagnosed at advanced stages. Outcomes after current treatment regimens have been poor, with 5-year survival rates as low as 25% for patients with limited-stage disease. Advances in therapy for small cell lung cancer have included the development of more effective chemotherapeutic agents and radiation techniques. For example, hyperfractionated radiotherapy given early in the course of the disease can reduce local recurrence and extend survival. Other technologic advances in radiation planning and delivery such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy, image-guided adaptive radiotherapy, and 4-dimensional computed tomography/positron emission tomography have facilitated the design of treatment volumes that closely conform to the shape of the tumor, which allows higher radiation doses to be given while minimizing radiation-induced toxicity to adjacent structures. Future improvements in outcomes will require clarifying the molecular basis for this disease. Cancer 2014;120:790–798. © 2013 American Cancer Society.