Article Abstract

The role of surgery in high grade neuroendocrine tumours of the lung

Authors: Stefan Welter, Clemens Aigner, Christian Roesel


High grade lung neuroendocrine tumours are a heterogeneous subtype of pulmonary cancers including small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC). LCNEC represents approximately 2–3% of lung cancers, whereas SCLC represents 15–20% of lung cancers. Patients with SCLC and LCNEC have a poor prognosis compared with patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). LCNEC is treated with primary surgical resection in stages I–II, which is similar to other NSCLCs. Neo-adjuvant treatment in stage III is similar to NSCLC but has not been well studied. LCNEC tumours have an unfavourable prognosis in higher stages but a more favourable prognosis in earlier stages. Surgery plays a minor role in treatment of SCLC because tumours are often locally advanced or have metastasized at the time of presentation and treatment relies on chemo- or chemoradiotherapy. However, patients with limited cancer may demonstrate better disease control upon surgical treatment. The resection rate of limited disease (LD) SCLC is low (1–6%), but 5-year survival rates of 31–42% after surgical resection are encouraging and are significantly higher than the survival rates of comparable patients that did not have surgery. Curing SCLC in stage I is reported in up to 66% of cases. Local treatment with either resection or radiotherapy alone is followed by high rates of locoregional and distant recurrences, so preoperative or adjuvant treatment is recommended. Here, we summarise the similarities and differences of SCLC and LCNEC and highlight the role of surgery in the treatment of SCLC and LCNEC and its effect on local recurrence prevention.