Chemotherapy for brain metastases from small cell lung cancer

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Background: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) accounts for approximately 20% of all cases of lung cancer. It tends to disseminate early in the course of its natural history and to grow quickly. Approximately 10% to 18% of patients present with brain metastases (BM) at the time of initial diagnosis, and an additional 40% to 50% will develop BM some time during the course of their disease. Objectives: The aim of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness and toxicity of systemic chemotherapy for the treatment of BM from SCLC. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Lung Cancer Review Group Specialised Register (July 2011), CENTRAL (2011, Issue 5), PubMed (1966 to July 2011), EMBASE (2005 to July 2011), LILACS (1982 to July 2011) and the International Clinical Trial Registry Platform (ICTRP). Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing systemic chemotherapy (single agent or combination chemotherapy) with another chemotherapy regimen, palliative care, whole brain radiotherapy or any combination of these interventions for the treatment of BM as the only site of progression. Data collection and analysis: Data extraction and Risk of bias assessment were carried out independently by two review authors. As the included studies evaluated three different treatment modalities meta-analysis was not possible. Main results: Three RCTs, involving 192 participants, met inclusion criteria for this review. No significant differences for overall survival (OS) were reported in any of the trials: In the first trial, 33 patients received whole brain radiation therapy and no significant difference was found between patients treated with topotecan and those not treated with topotecan. In a second trial, in which 120 patients were randomized to receive teniposide with or without brain radiation therapy, the authors reported that the median progression-free survival (brain-specific progression-free survival (PFS)) was 3.5 months in the combined modality arm and 3.2 in the teniposide alone arm. In a third trial, comparing sequential and concomitant chemoradiotherapy (teniposide plus cisplatin) in 39 participants, the survival difference between the two groups was not statistically significant. While the first trial reported no significant difference in PFS, the second RCT found a significant difference favoring combined therapy group. The second trial also found that patients receiving chemoradiotherapy (teniposide plus whole brain radiotherapy) had a higher complete response rate than those receiving only the topoisomerase inhibitor.




Reveiz, L., Rueda, J. R., & Cardona, A. F. (2012). Chemotherapy for brain metastases from small cell lung cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012(6), 1–32.

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