Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a very fast growing form of cancer and is characterised by early metastasis. As a result, chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment. A number of different platinum-based chemotherapy regimens and non-platinum-based chemotherapy regimens have been used for the treatment of SCLC, with varying results. This review was conducted to analyse the data from these studies in order to compare their effectiveness.
To determine the effectiveness of platinum chemotherapy regimens compared with non-platinum chemotherapy regimens in the treatment of SCLC with respect to survival, tumour response, toxicity and quality of life.
We searched the biomedical literature databases CENTRAL (TheCochrane Library 2014, Issue 7), MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL from 1966 to August 2014. In addition, we handsearched reference lists from relevant resources.
All randomised controlled trials involving patients with pathologically confirmed SCLC (including both limited-stage disease and extensive-stage disease) and the use of a platinum-based chemotherapy regimen in at least one treatment arm and a non-platinum-based chemotherapy regimen in a separate arm.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by the Cochrane Collaboration. Two authors independently assessed search results. We assessed included studies for methodological quality and recorded the following outcome data: survival, tumour response, toxicity and quality of life. We combined the results of the survival, tumour response and toxicity data in a meta-analysis. Quality-of-life data were analysed individually.
A total of 32 studies involving 6075 patients with SCLC were included in this systematic review. The majority of studies were multi-centre randomised controlled trials conducted throughout Europe, North America and Asia with the earliest study publishing data in 1981 and the latest in 2014. The duration of studies ranged from 12 to 72 months with a median of 32 months. The median age of patients in the vast majority of studies was between 60 and 65 years of age. Eighteen studies presented data on extensive-stage disease. Nine studies presented data on limited-stage disease. Eleven studies did not present data based on the disease stage. These data were analysed separately in subgroup analyses. Sixteen (50%) studies were of good quality with a low risk of bias and the data from these studies were analysed separately in a heterogeneity analysis.There was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in terms of survival at 6 months, 12 months and 24 months. There was also no statistically significant difference in terms of overall tumour response. However, platinum-based treatment regimens did have a significantly higher rate of complete response. Platinum-based chemotherapy regimens had significantly higher rates of nausea and vomiting and thrombocytopenia toxicity. Four trials presented quality-of-life data, but, due to the different systems used to measure quality of life this data could not be combined in a meta-analysis.
Platinum-based chemotherapy regimens did not offer a statistically significant benefit in survival or overall tumour response compared with non-platinum-based regimens. However, platinum-based chemotherapy regimens did increase complete response rates, at the cost of higher adverse events including nausea and vomiting, anaemia and thrombocytopenia toxicity. These data suggest non-platinum chemotherapy regimens have a more advantageous risk-benefit profile. This systematic review highlights the lack of quality-of-life data in trials involving chemotherapy treatment for SCLC. With poor long-term survival associated with both treatment groups, the issue of the quality of the survival period takes on even more significance. It would be beneficial for future trials in this area to include a quality-of-life assessment.