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Monday 01 December 2003

Update on the role of topotecan in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

By: Stewart DJ.

Oncologist 2004;9 Suppl 6:43-52

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is an aggressive disease that is generally resistant to chemotherapy. As a result, the prognosis for patients with NSCLC is poor. Currently, platinum-based regimens are the standard of care for patients with advanced NSCLC. However, these regimens are associated with severe and often cumulative hematologic and nonhematologic toxicities, limiting dose intensity. Therefore, novel chemotherapeutic agents and combination regimens may improve the outcome for these patients. A variety of new agents and combinations have been investigated in the treatment of NSCLC. However, to date, no clearly superior single-agent or combination regimen has emerged. Topotecan (Hycamtin; GlaxoSmithKline; Philadelphia, PA), a topoisomerase I inhibitor, is currently approved for the treatment of patients with relapsed small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and is associated with manageable, noncumulative, hematologic toxicities. In addition, topotecan demonstrates a favorable nonhematologic tolerability profile compared with agents currently used in the treatment of patients with NSCLC. The success of topotecan in patients with SCLC has made it an attractive option in the NSCLC setting. Topotecan-based combination regimens in the first-line treatment of NSCLC have demonstrated promising antitumor activities with favorable toxicity profiles. Many topotecan combination regimens have induced stable disease, a response that may offer meaningful clinical benefit in the palliative treatment of patients with advanced disease. Topotecan plus gemcitabine (Gemzar; Eli Lilly and Company; Indianapolis, IN) and single-agent topotecan may be particularly appropriate for patients in the second-line setting, in which palliation of symptoms is an important outcome of chemotherapy. Herein, the future role of topotecan in the first- and second-line treatment of NSCLC and the potential role of resistance mechanisms obtained from in vivo dose-response studies in designing future combination regimens are discussed.

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