Maintenance therapy in non-small cell lung cancer
With standard doublet chemotherapy for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), we have reached an outcome plateau of about 10 months median overall survival over the last decades. Several studies have now demonstrated some survival benefits for patients treated beyond induction chemotherapy. In the current discussion about treatment duration, the terms “switch” and “continuation” maintenance therapy are now most commonly used by the scientific community. Switch maintenance is the treatment with an agent with a different mode of action after completion of induction chemotherapy in patients who’s tumors have not progressed, whereas continuation maintenance is the continuation of one compound of the induction regimen. Chemotherapeutic compounds successfully investigated in the maintenance setting are Gemcitabine, Docetaxel and Pemetrexed. Targeted agents, recently investigated as maintenance therapy are Bevacizumab, Cetuximab and Erlotinib. New peer-reviewed publications of phase III randomized clinical trials on maintenance chemotherapy have led to a change in current practice guidelines and the use of maintenance therapy represents a new treatment option in advanced NSCLC. The pivotal trials are described and summarized in this review article.