Lung Cancer - Small Cell: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about SCLC, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Personalized therapy. Researchers are looking at the features of lung tumors that can predict whether a specific treatment may be effective. To collect this information, patients are increasingly being asked to have additional analyses of the tumor samples taken when the disease is first diagnosed. The amount of tumor tissue removed during the original biopsy to diagnose the cancer may not be enough for these additional studies. If this is the case, patients may be asked to have another biopsy to help plan treatment and, if part of a clinical trial, to help researchers find better ways to treat lung cancer. Learn more about personalized therapy.

  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a type of systemic treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells. The targeted therapy rovalpituzumab is being studied for SCLC. It is a drug combined with an antibody that attaches to a protein called DLL3 found on SCLC cells.

  • Immunotherapy. The PD-1 pathway may be very important in the immune system’s ability to control cancer growth. Blocking this pathway with PD-1 and PD-L1 antibodies has stopped or slowed the growth of lung cancer for some patients. Research into new immunotherapies and new ways to use these treatments is ongoing. Learn more about immunotherapy and lung cancer.

  • Better techniques for radiation therapy. Doctors are finding ways to improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy while reducing the side effects. For example, some studies are looking at stereotactic radiation therapy, which is used to focus radiation more directly on the cancer and avoid healthy tissue.

  • Improved screening/early detection. SCLC is more successfully treated in its early stages, which has raised interest in screening more people for lung cancer before it causes signs and symptoms.

  • Stopping tobacco use. Even with the best methods for the early detection and treatment of lung cancer, the best way to save lives from lung cancer in general and SCLC specifically is through programs to encourage people to never begin smoking and, if they have, quit smoking. For most people, lung cancer is a highly preventable disease. Even for people with lung cancer, stopping smoking lets them live longer, lowers side effects, and lessens the chance of getting a second lung cancer. Quitting smoking is hard at any time, and even more so during cancer treatment. Your health care team can help make it easier to quit smoking with nicotine replacement and other techniques. Research continues into new ways to help people stop smoking.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current lung cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in SCLC, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.