(BPT) - Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a rare disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the lung, accounting for ~15% of all lung cancers.1 “Small cell” refers to the small, uniform nature of the cells under the microscope – contrary to non-small cell, where cells vary in both size and shape.
SCLC is typically categorized into two stages: limited stage and extensive stage, the latter describing cancers that have spread widely throughout the lung, to the other lung, to lymph nodes across the chest, or even to other parts of the body, such as the bone marrow. Because of the aggressive nature of the condition, 80-85% of patients are diagnosed with SCLC once it has reached this extensive-stage.2 With this, early detection and diagnosis can offer the best chance of successful treatment for people living with SCLC.
In recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look to better understand the treatment journey of those living with SCLC.
Chemotherapy helps destroy the tumor, but also healthy bone marrow.
Because SCLC spreads quickly throughout the body, intravenous treatment such as chemotherapy remains a cornerstone of care; however, while chemotherapy works to destroy cancer cells, it does not have the ability to differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells – ultimately damaging both.
One harmful side effect of chemotherapy is damage to the bone marrow – the parent source of multiple cell types, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. When the bone marrow is damaged, this results in low blood cell count, also known as myelosuppression.
Myelosuppression can have serious consequences.
Myelosuppression can put people at increased risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.3 To better understand its impact, it’s helpful to first understand the functions each of our cell-types play in supporting our bodies:
Having low blood cell counts or platelets can negatively impact people’s health and treatment, which can result in hospitalization, the need for blood transfusions or rescue interventions, as well as reduction in dose or delays in chemotherapy treatment.4,5 In fact, neutropenia and anemia are two of the top reasons people being treated with chemotherapy enter the emergency room or hospital.6
Mitigating myelosuppression is possible.
For people undergoing chemotherapy, traditional treatment options for myelosuppression often promote and replace cells that have been damaged or depleted due to the chemotherapy and aim to stimulate the recovery of damaged cells. These interventions are used with the goal of stimulating or replacing individual cell lineages after the damage from chemotherapy occurs and can include:
Alternatively, some people with SCLC may have the option to receive treatment in advance of chemotherapy which may help reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy on bone marrow cells. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with SCLC, talk to your healthcare provider about your options. If you are interested in learning more about the effect of chemotherapy on multiple blood cell lineages, click here.
This content is sponsored by G1 Therapeutics.
1American Cancer Society. What Is Lung Cancer? Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/lung-cancer/about/what-is.html. Accessed November 2, 2023.
2Schwendenwein A, Megyesfalvi Z, Barany N. et al. Molecular profiles of small cell lung cancer subtypes: therapeutic implications. Mol Ther Oncolytics. 2021;20:470–483.
3Cleveland Clinic. Myelosuppression (Bone Marrow Suppression. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24788-myelosuppression. Accessed November 2, 2023.
4Kurtin S. Myeloid toxicity of cancer treatment. J Adv Pract Oncol. 2012;3(4):209-224.
5American Cancer Society. Kinds of Blood Product Transfusions. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/managing-cancer/treatment-types/blood-transfusion-and-donation/what-are-transfusions.html. Access November 2, 2023.
6Hassett MJ, O’Malley AJ, Pakes JR, et al. Frequency and cost of chemotherapy-related serious adverse effects in a population sample of women with breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98(16):1108-1117.