Locally advanced non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) presents enormous challenges to clinicians and researchers. Because of the absence of metastatic disease, it is a potentially curable condition, greatly differentiating it from stage IV NSCLC. The median and actuarial survival rates are poor, though clearly improved in the past decade, and clearly better than several other types of locally advanced malignancies (e.g., pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma). As demonstrated in Table I, the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy has earned the designation of "standard of care" for most good-performance-status patients with locally advanced NSCLC. It is likely that improvements in radiotherapy have also contributed to the enhanced survival and local control rates in this disease. With concurrent chemoradiotherapy, the majority of patients can receive a substantial local response (Fig. 1). Many achieve durable local control, only to succumb to eventual distant metastatic failure. There remains much room for improvement, and there are several avenues for clinical and translational research that offer promise. These include new systemic chemotherapy options (and newer ways of combining these drugs with radiotherapy), improvements in radiotherapy fractionation and dose intensity, methods of protection from chemoradiotherapy toxicity, specific therapies to prevent brain metastatic failure, and the integration of biologically targeted molecules into chemoradiation programs. This article summarizes the advances in the treatment of locally advanced NSCLC over the past several decades and explores some of the many remaining controversies and areas for future investigation.
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