Updated ASCO Guidelines for Optimal Small Cell Lung Cancer Management


Practices are on the cusp of better understanding small cell lung cancer that in turn can help to advance treatment strategies for patients, says Gregory Peter Kalemkerian, MD.

In a conversation with CancerNetwork®, Gregory Peter Kalemkerian, MD, spoke about the publication of updated guidelines for managing small cell lung cancer (SCLC) with systemic therapy, which was developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in collaboration with Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario).1

Kalemkerian, a clinical professor at The University of Michigan and senior author of the guidelines, discussed developments in the SCLC field that inspired the creation of the revised guidelines since the last publication from ASCO in 2015.2 Although the latest guidelines contained recommendations concerning treatment modalities such as surgery and radiotherapy, Kalemkerian said that the biggest advances related to the integration of immunotherapy into frontline treatment for patients with extensive-stage SCLC (ES-SCLC).

Specifically, Kalemkerian highlighted the use of immunotherapeutic agents such as durvalumab (Imfinzi) and atezolizumab (Tecentriq), which have demonstrated long-term improvements in survival of those with ES-SCLC. The guideline authors issued a strong recommendation backed by high-quality evidence for the frontline use of carboplatin plus etoposide or cisplatin plus atezolizumab or durvalumab followed by maintenance immunotherapy in patients with ES-SCLC who have no contraindications to immunotherapy.1 Additionally, there was no evidence supporting the continuation of immunotherapy for those with relapsed SCLC and progressive disease following maintenance immunotherapy based on an informal consensus.

With respect to other updates in the guidelines, Kalemkerian spoke about optimal treatment strategies for patients with poorer performance statuses as well as the potential role of biomarkers in SCLC. Although there are currently no validated biomarkers that have demonstrated utility in the management of SCLC, he stated that it was necessary to overhaul how practices understand how diseases like SCLC develop and grow to help improve patient outcomes.

“I would like people to pay attention to SCLC a little bit,” Kalemkerian said. “Non–small cell lung cancer has gotten a lot of the press and hype over the last 20 years or so since targeted therapy came out for that disease. Before that, we all thought SCLC was where we were going to be making advances, and we were wrong. We’re on the cusp of understanding the disease better and utilizing that understanding to advance newer strategies for trying to treat these patients.”


  1. Khurshid H, Ismaila N, Bian J, et al. Systemic therapy for small-cell lung cancer: ASCO-Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario) guideline. J Clin Oncol. 2023;41(35):5448-5472. doi:10.1200/JCO.23.01435
  2. Rudin CM, Ismaila N, Hann CL, et al. Treatment of small-cell lung cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology endorsement of the American College of Chest Physicians Guideline. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33(34):4106-4111. doi:10.1200/JCO.2015.63.7918.
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