What is the efficacy of treatments for stage IIIB non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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In an open-label, phase III study in chemotherapy-naive patients with stage IIIB NSCLC (n=676), cetuximab combined with first-line taxane/carboplatin chemotherapy did not reach statistically significant improvement for progression-free survival or overall survival; however, significant improvement was shown in overall response rate. [214]

The NVALT3 study found that chemotherapy in patients aged 70 years or older treated with carboplatin/paclitaxel or carboplatin/gemcitabine did not have a decline in their quality of life. [215]

A meta-analysis of 10 randomized trials of combined chemoradiation therapy revealed a 10% reduction in risk of death with combined modality therapy compared with radiation alone. It appears that in appropriate candidates (with good performance status), chemotherapy given concurrently with radiation results in superior survival compared with chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy.

Patients with stage IIIB NSCLC and poor performance status are not good candidates for chemotherapy or a combined-modality approach. These patients may benefit from radiation therapy alone to palliate the symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, and hemoptysis. Patients with invasive airway obstruction may be candidates for palliative endobronchial curettage or stenting to relieve obstructive atelectasis and dyspnea.

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