Refractory Small cell lung cancer

Refractory Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive and rapidly-spreading type of lung cancer that responds well to initial treatment with chemotherapy or radiation, but which can recur and become resistant to further treatment. Refractory small cell lung cancer (rSCLC) is the term used for SCLC that is not responding to or is resistant to further attempts at treatment.

In rSCLC, treatment options are limited and survival rates are poor. More research is needed to improve outcomes and first-line treatments. However, advances have been made in the development of new chemotherapies, immunotherapies, and targeted treatments for rSCLC.

Causes of rSCLC

Unfortunately, the exact cause of refractory small cell lung cancer is unknown. Many researchers believe that an initial chemotherapeutic treatment can be effective in eliminating cancer cells, but that in some cases the remaining cells are more resistant and can survive. These resistant cells then grow and replicate, leading to the recurrence or refractory nature of the disease.

Risk Factors

The following may increase your risk for rSCLC:

  • Smoking, especially heavy smoking or longer duration of smoking
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke or air pollution
  • Exposure to radiation, such as from radiation therapy for other conditions
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Genetic mutations associated with certain types of cancer


Diagnosis of rSCLC is complicated. Your doctor will perform a physical exam, and may order imaging tests such as chest X-ray, CT scan, or PET scan to look for tumors. Your doctor may also perform a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis and provide information on the type and severity of the cancer. If cancer is present, your doctor may also perform tests to measure the size of the tumor and determine if it has metastasized (spread to other areas of the body).


Treatment options for rSCLC are limited. Your doctor will put together a personalized treatment plan based on the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your overall health and any other medical conditions. Treatment for rSCLC may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and clinical trials.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Immunotherapy uses drugs to help the body’s own immune system attack cancer cells. Targeted drug therapy uses drugs that target and block the growth of specific molecules involved in cancer growth. Finally, clinical trials can offer access to new treatments that are not yet available to the general public.


Refractory small cell lung cancer is a difficult condition to treat due to its aggressive nature and lack of effective treatment options. However, advances in the development of new chemotherapies, immunotherapies, and targeted treatments are providing greater hope for treating this aggressive disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with rSCLC, talk to your doctor about the available treatment options and find a plan that works best for you.