June 1st 2004
Locally advanced non–small-cell lung cancer represents 30% to 40%of all pulmonary malignancies. Most patients will die of the diseaseafter aggressive contemporary treatments. Therefore, significant improvementin therapeutic methods must be implemented to improveoverall survival rates. The arrival of a new generation of chemotherapeuticagents-including the taxanes, gemcitabine (Gemzar), andtopoisomerase inhibitors such as irinotecan (Camptosar) and topotecan(Hycamtin)-offers the hope of significant advances in the treatmentof lung cancer. Irinotecan and topotecan are camptothecin derivativesthat inhibit topoisomerase I enzyme. It is believed that topoisomerase Iinhibitors stabilize a DNA/topoisomerase I complex and interact withreplication machinery to cause cell death. A significant amount of datademonstrates that these topoisomerase I inhibitors also act asradiosensitizers. With the increasing data that support concurrentchemoradiation treatment for malignancies, including lung cancer andhead and neck cancers, there is an impetus to pursue the additionaldrugs that may potentially improve local control and survival. Irinotecanis undergoing early clinical trials in the combined-modality setting inseveral different disease sites. This paper will review the data on therole of camptothecin derivatives as a radiosensitizer and as a componentof combined-modality therapy for lung cancer. It is hoped thatnewer treatment strategies, like the combination of radiation andtopoisomerase I inhibitors, will have a significant impact on cure ratesin the future.