Treatment of Recurrent Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
When non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has progressed or returned following an initial treatment with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy, it is said to have recurred or relapsed.
When deciding whether to get treatment for NSCLC, you should be aware of the goals of your therapy. Treatment may be given to improve symptoms, to increase the chance of a cure, or to prolong life. You and your doctor should carefully balance the potential benefits of receiving cancer treatment with the potential risks.
The following is a general overview of the treatment of recurrent NSCLC. Your individual situation may influence your decision to have treatment and what type it should be. The potential benefits of receiving treatment must be carefully balanced with the potential risks.
The information on this website is intended to help educate you about your treatment options. It can help you when you make decisions with the cancer specialist who treats you. Circumstances unique to your situation and prognostic factors of your cancer may ultimately influence how these general treatment principles are applied.
Most new treatments are developed in clinical trials. These are studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new drugs or treatments. Clinical trials make it possible to develop more effective cancer treatments. If you take part in a clinical trial, you may get better treatments. You will also help to advance knowledge about treatment of NSCLC.
Clinical trials are available for most stages of cancer. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, you should discuss the risks and benefits of taking part with your physician. In any case, you should stay informed by following the news about cancer trials. In this way, you can make sure that you are receiving the best treatment available.
Three agents have been approved for treating recurrent NSCLC: Taxol® (docetaxel), Alimta® (pemetrexed) and Tarceva® (erlotinib). If you have never been treated with chemotherapy, the approach is similar to treatment of stage IV cancer. Several newer chemotherapeutic drugs are able to kill cancer cells in patients with recurrent NSCLC. Clinical trials are currently investigating improved treatment of recurrent NSCLC with chemotherapy.
Managing Bone Complications in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
NSCLC often spreads to the bone, causing bone metastases. Bone metastases may cause pain, bone loss, and increased risk of fractures. It can also cause a life-threatening condition called hypercalcemia, in which there is a high level of calcium in the blood.
Bisphosphonate drugs can effectively prevent loss of bone that occurs from bone metastases. They can also reduce the risk of fractures and decrease pain.
Zometa® (zoledronic acid) and Aredia® (pamidronate) are FDA-approved bisphosphonate drugs for the treatment of cancer-related bone complications. Zoledronic acid seems to be the stronger of the two. Another benefit of zoledronic acid is that it only takes 15 minutes to administer, making it more convenient for patients.
Research is in progress to refine existing treatments and develop new ones. For information on some of the techniques currently under investigation, see Strategies to Improve Treatment.
This content was last reviewed
August 15, 2010 by Dr. Reshma L. Mahtani.