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Chemotherapy for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Chemotherapy is a drug or combination of drugs that travels throughout the body to kill cancer cells wherever they might be. Because small cell lung cancer spreads quickly from the lungs to other parts of the body, the primary treatment is chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer is given either alone or in combination with radiation therapy. The approach your doctors recommend will depend on the stage of your disease.

  • People with limited-stage small cell lung cancer simultaneously receive a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
  • People with extensive-stage cancer typically receive chemotherapy only. This is because radiation therapy is highly targeted and is not effective when the cancer has spread from the lung where the cancer began to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy may be used in some patients to help improve symptoms or to prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain.

Initial chemotherapy for almost all patients with small cell lung cancer includes the combination of the drug etoposide with a platinum agent (either cisplatin or carboplatin).

We are constantly striving to improve the treatment and outcomes for patients with Small Cell Lung Cancer by participation in clinical
trials of new agents.