What is the role of radiotherapy for extensive-stage small cell lung cancer in the immunotherapy era?

Eric G. Nesbit, Ticiana A. Leal, Tim J. Kruser


Small cell lung cancer has been a difficult disease to treat with poor survival and few significant improvements in outcomes in the last three decades. Most recently the addition of atezolizumab to chemotherapy in the first-line treatment of extensive-stage small cell lung cancer (ES-SCLC) resulted in improved overall survival and progression-free survival compared to chemotherapy alone. Recent randomized studies examining both consolidative thoracic radiotherapy and prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) in ES-SCLC have impacted the utilization of these interventions. The approval of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) to platinum/etoposide chemotherapy for the treatment of ES-SCLC in the front-line setting may also further impact the role of radiotherapy in this disease. In this article, we review the current evidence supporting thoracic radiotherapy in ES-SCLC and discuss the promising therapeutic implications of thoracic radiation in light of the inclusion of ICIs. We also address how the increasing routine use of surveillance brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ICIs may diminish the use of PCI in ES-SCLC.