Small-cell-lung cancer is an aggressive lung cancer that almost always occurs in chronic smokers. It grows rapidly and patients with advanced disease succumb to the disease within 3 months if left untreated.
For many years, the main treatment for advanced small-cell lung cancer is chemotherapy. Until recently, in the last 2 years, two large trials have found that immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy in the first line setting improves overall survival. Now, immunotherapy in addition to chemotherapy is the standard of care, if patients are suitable and do not have any contraindication.
The group of drugs used in immunotherapy belongs to a class called checkpoint inhibitors. They work by getting our body’s immune cells to recognize the cancer cells and killing them. The side effects are unlike that of chemotherapy, but there are patients who are not suitable, for example, patients with autoimmune diseases.
Figure. How the checkpoint inhibitor PD1/PDL1 inhibitor works
In patients who have tried chemotherapy and immunotherapy but the cancer continues to progress, a new drug called Lurbinectedin was approved by US FDA for use in this setting.
So, there is hope for patients with small-cell lung cancer but the best action against it is to prevent the cancer from occurring in the first place and that is not to smoke or to stop smoking if you are a smoker, because small cell lung cancer is a result of many years of cumulative smoke.