Karen Kelly, MD

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Current Role of Irinotecan in the Treatment of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

September 1st 2002

Lung cancer remains the primary cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States. Chemotherapy has been shown to provide a survival benefit in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and current regimens have produced median survivals of approximately 8 months and 1-year survival rates of 30% to 35% in patients with stage IIIB and IV disease. Nevertheless, there remains room for improvement. Irinotecan (CPT-11, Camptosar) has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). It also appears to have promising activity in advanced NSCLC, producing overall response rates of up to 32%. Combinations of irinotecan and cisplatin or carboplatin (Paraplatin) have resulted in overall response rates of 25% to 56% in phase II and III studies in patients with advanced disease, with median survivals ranging from 9 to 13 months and 1-year survival rates of 33% to 58%. Current irinotecan-based doublet and triplet regimens appear to produce promising response rates with manageable toxicities. In addition, irinotecan has demonstrated potential as a radiosensitizing agent and is currently being evaluated in several trials of combined-modality therapy in patients with locally advanced NSCLC. Early trials of irinotecan in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin along with radiation therapy have reported overall response rates of 60% to 67%. The approach appears to have potential and warrants further study. [ONCOLOGY 16:1153-1168, 2002]