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Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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This page discusses the use of chemotherapy for the treatment of lung cancer. For a thorough review of chemotherapy for cancer treatment, please see the chemotherapy treatment monograph .

Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, which are localized treatments, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas.

Chemotherapy for lung cancer is usually done in the hospital. The drugs are usually given in combination, intravenously (by IV), and in cycles. Chemotherapy may be used with other types of treatments, including radiation and surgery. It may be used to control symptoms, such as cough, pain, and shortness of breath.

Chemotherapy is a primary treatment (along with radiation therapy ) for small cell lung cancer. For non-small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy is usually used to control symptoms, or in conjunction with radiation therapy or surgery to improve local control and survival.

Doctors are still working to determine the best chemotherapy regimens for lung cancer.

Chemotherapy for Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

Single Chemotherapy Agents

The following drugs have response rates greater than 15% for non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Cisplatin
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Etoposide
  • Gemcitabine
  • Ifosfamide
  • Mitomycin C
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • Vincristine
  • Vinorelbine

Combination Therapies, Given by IV in Cycles

Name of CombinationDrugs in Combination
MVP Mitomycin and vindesine
Or vinblastine and cisplatin
CAP Cyclophosphamide
Doxorubicin
Cisplatin
BEP Bleomycin
Etoposide
Cisplatin
EP Etoposide
Cisplatin
FPV 5-Fluorouracil
Cisplatin
FOMi/CAP 5-Fluorouracil
Vincristine
Mitomycin C
Cyclophosphamide
Doxorubicin
Cisplatin
CE Carboplatin
Etoposide
TP Teniposide
Cisplatin
IM Ifosfamide
Mitomycin C
IE Ifosfamide
Etoposide
IP Ifosfamide
Cisplatin
MIP Mitomycin
Ifosfamide
Cisplatin
ICE Ifosfamide
Carboplatin or cisplatin
Etoposide
GemP Gemcitabine
Cisplatin
PacP Paclitaxel
Cisplatin
PacC Paclitaxel
Carboplatin
VrlbP Vinorelbine
Cisplatin
DocP Docetaxel
Cisplatin

Chemotherapy for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Single Chemotherapy Agents

The following drugs have response rates of at least 20% for small cell lung cancer:

  • Epirubicin (high-dose)
  • Carboplatin
  • Hexamethylmelamine
  • Ifosfamide
  • Teniposide

Combination Therapies, Given by IV in Cycles

Name of CombinationDrugs in Combination
EP Etoposide (VP-16)
Cisplatin
CAVE Cyclophosphamide
Doxorubicin
Vincristine
Etoposide (VP-16)
CAV Cyclophosphamide
Doxorubicin
Vincristine
VPCP Etoposide (VP-16)
Carboplatin
ICE (VIP) Etoposide (VP-16)
Ifosfamide
Cisplatin
CODE Cisplatin
Vincristine
Doxorubicin
Etoposide

Effectiveness

Chemotherapy offers limited curative benefit for lung cancer, but it may help in controlling symptoms. If the tumor does not respond to therapy within two or three cycles of treatment, chemotherapy is usually stopped.

Response rates for combination therapy for non-small cell lung cancer range from 10% to 60%. Adding chemotherapy to radiation for patients with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer can modestly improve outcome. It is not recommended for Stage I or II.

Response rates for combination therapy (chemotherapy plus radiation therapy) for small cell lung cancer range from 55% to 75% in patients with extensive disease and 70% to 90% in patients with limited disease.

Sources:

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

Bast R. Cancer Medicine e5 . Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc.; 2000.

National Cancer Institute



Last reviewed February 2003 by Jondavid Pollock, MD, PhD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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