Paclitaxel for treatment of advanced small cell lung cancer (SCLC): a retrospective study of 185 patients

Damian von Eiff, Farastuk Bozorgmehr, Inn Chung, Denise Bernhardt, Stefan Rieken, Stephan Liersch, Thomas Muley, Sonja Kobinger, Michael Thomas, Petros Christopoulos, Martin Steins


Background: Etoposide-/platinum-based chemotherapy is the standard first-line treatment for extensive- disease small cell lung cancer (SCLC), but responses are short-lived and subsequent options limited. Here, we present our experience with paclitaxel in advanced treatment lines.
Methods: We retrospectively studied the clinical course of all paclitaxel-treated SCLC patients between 2005 and 2015 in our institution. Prognostic and predictive factors were analyzed by Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses.
Results: A total of 185 patients [119 men, median age 65 years, median ECOG performance status (PS) 1] were identified. One hundred and sixty-eight patients had extensive disease (ED) at the time of paclitaxel therapy. Paclitaxel was mainly given as third- or fourth-line therapy (93%). The response rate (RR) was 17% and disease control rate (DCR) 28%. Patients reached a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 1.6 (95% CI: 1.4–1.8) months and median overall survival (OS) of 3.3 (95% CI: 2.8–3.9) months. Main toxicities were fatigue (25%) and polyneuropathy (17%). Dose reduction of ≥25% was associated with shorter PFS [1.9 (95% CI: 1.5–2.3) vs. 1.4 (95% CI: 1.3–1.5) months; P=0.004]. Further independent predictive factors for PFS were gender, age, and hepatic/brain metastases (P<0.05). Tumor response to paclitaxel, PS, number and location of metastases, dose reduction, and smoking history were significant factors for OS in univariable analyses (P<0.05), while PS, dose reduction, status of cerebral/hepatic metastases, tumor response, and smoking history were retained as independent prognostic factors in multivariable testing. Notably, ECOG PS 2 patients had toxicity rates similar to ECOG PS 0–1 patients (63% vs. 62%), as well as a comparable DCR (29% vs. 28%), which was associated with prolonged survival (4.5 vs. 3.2 months for refractory cases, P=0.034).
Conclusions: Paclitaxel has clinically relevant activity in heavily pretreated SCLC. While patients with good PS and no cerebral/hepatic metastases derive the greatest benefit, ECOG PS 2 per se should not be used as a criterion to exclude patients.