Large-cell neuroendocrine carcinomas of the lung (LCNECs) are rare tumors representing 1-3% of all primary lung cancers. Patients with LCNEC are predominantly male, older, and heavy smokers. Histologically, these tumors are characterized by large cells with abundant cytoplasm, high mitotic rate, and neuroendocrine immunohistochemistry-detected markers (chromogranin-A, synaptophysin, and CD56). In 2015 the World Health Organization classified LCNEC as a distinct subtype of pulmonary large-cell carcinoma and, therefore, as a subtype of non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). Because of the small-sized tissue samples and the likeness to other neuroendocrine tumors, the histological diagnosis of LCNEC remains difficult. Clinically, the prognosis of metastatic LCNECs is poor, with high rates of recurrence after surgery alone and overall survival of approximately 35% at 5 years, even for patients with early stage disease that is dramatically shorter compared with other NSCLC subtypes. First-line treatment options have been largely discussed but with limited data based on phase II studies with small sample sizes, and there are no second-line well defined treatments. To date, no standard treatment regimen has been developed, and how to treat LCNEC is still on debate. In the immunotherapy and targeted therapy era, in which NSCLC treatment strategies have been radically reshaped, a few data are available regarding these opportunities in LCNEC. Due to lack of knowledge in this field, many efforts have been done for a deeper understanding of the biological and molecular characteristics of LCNEC. Next generation sequencing analyses have identified subtypes of LCNEC that may be relevant for prognosis and response to therapy, but further studies are needed to better define the clinical impact of these results. Moreover, scarce data exist about PD-L1 expression in LCNEC and its predictive value in this histotype with regard to immunotherapy efficacy. In the literature some cases are reported concerning LCNEC metastatic patients carrying driver mutations, especially EGFR alterations, showing targeted therapy efficacy in this setting of disease. Due to the rarity and the challenging understanding of LCNEC, in this review we aim to summarize the management options currently available for treatment of LCNEC.
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