Surgical resection still is the only significant curative approach in nonsmall cell lung cancer. Recent surgical experience indicates that a modest decrease in the death rate from bronchogenic carcinoma may occur in three general areas: (1) the detection and treatment of radiographically occult squamous cell carcinoma; (2) the combination of adjuvant chemotherapy and surgical excision in selected patients with small cell carcinoma; and (3) surgical resection and postop irradiation of patients with hilar and mediastinal lymph node metastases. At the time of diagnosis, 80 to 85% of the patients present with unresectable lung cancer. These patients may benefit from other modalities of therapy, i.e., radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Failures following radiotherapy in unresectable nonsmall cell lung cancer are due to (1) distant metastasis, (2) local region failure, and (3) local and distant failure. To increase the local control, new methods of treatment have been tried, such as hyperfractionation of radiotherapy and the use of 131I antiferritin immunoglobulin. The development of effective systemic chemotherapy is necessary to treat metastatic bronchogenic carcinoma. The response rate to chemotherapeutic agents is substantially lower in nonsmall cell carcinoma than in small cell carcinoma. Investigation is ongoing to assess the effectiveness of new antitumor drugs used alone, in combination with other drugs, or combined with other modalities for the treatment of bronchogenic carcinoma.
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