The results of randomized trials have prompted an evolution in the treatment approach to inoperable locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, from radio-therapy alone to sequential chemoradiotherapy and now to concurrent chemoradiotherapy. The improvement in outcome seen with a concurrent chemoradiotherapy approach may be because of spatial cooperation, enhanced radiosensitization, and/or enhanced cytotoxicity. The taxanes, specifically paclitaxel (Taxol; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Princeton, NJ), delivered in combination with radiation have been extensively examined in both preclinical and clinical studies. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain the enhanced tumor cell kill seen with paclitaxel and radiation, and phase II studies have examined this combination in the setting of inoperable stage III non-small cell lung cancer. This review will explore some of the studies with this treatment approach in locally advanced disease. We also will briefly discuss some of the ongoing trials that are attempting to refine the delivery of concurrent thoracic radiation and paclitaxel-based chemotherapy.
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