Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) has a high predilection formetastasizing to the brain after chemotherapy. This has been blamed on the blood-brain barrier, which prevents chemotherapy from penetrating into the brain, thus creating a sanctuary site. It has been estimated that up to three quarters of patients with SCLC will eventually develop brain metastases. This led investigators to administer prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) to decrease this risk. Several trials were performed in patients with SCLC after initial therapy (chemotherapy with or without thoracic radiotherapy) that compared the outcomes of PCI versus no PCI. Early trials generally found that PCI significantly decreased the risk of brainmetastases but did not significantly improve survival. These trials were re-evaluated in two larger meta-analyses that included patients with either limited-stage SCLC or extensive-stage SCLC (ESCLC). Both meta-analyses reported that PCI significantly decreased brain metastases and improved survival in patientswho had a complete response following initial therapy. These studieswere performed before the advent of modern imaging with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). There have been twomodern trials of PCI versus no PCI in patients with ESCLC and both found that PCI decreases brain metastases. The first did not include brainMRI before registration and found that PCI improved survival,whereas the second study did include MRI before registration and at frequent intervals thereafter. That trial found that PCI did not confer a survival advantage. This review will examine the evidence and provide recommendations regarding the role of PCI for patients with ESCLC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy