Paraneoplastic Cushing’s syndrome (CushingPS) in small-cell lung cancer is rare but severe.
We studied 383 patients with small-cell lung cancer diagnosed between 1998 and 2012. Among them, 23 patients had CushingPS, 56 had other paraneoplastic syndrome (OtherPS), and 304 had no paraneoplastic syndrome (NoPS).
After comparison of the three groups, we observed that CushingPS patients had more extensive disease: 82.6% versus 67.8% versus 53.3% (p = 0.005), respectively, with more than two metastatic sites: 63.2% versus 15.8% and 24.1% (p ≤ 0.001), a higher World Health Organization performance status (2–4): 73.9% versus 57.1% versus 43.7% (p = 0.006), greater weight loss (≥10%): 47.8% versus 33.9% versus 16.4% (p ≤ 0.001), reduced objective response to first-line treatment: 47.6% versus 74.1% versus 71.1% (p = 0.04), and poorer sensitivity to first-line treatment: 19% versus 38.9% versus 48.6% (p = 0.01). NoPS patients, with World Health Organization performance status of 3–4, had extensive disease at diagnosis, with response, sensitivity to first-line treatment, and survival similar to the CushingPS group. At relapse, the CushingPS group had no objective response to second-line treatment versus 25% versus 42.8% in OtherPS and NoPS groups, respectively (p = 0.005). The median survival of CushingPS patients was 6.6 months versus 9.2 months for OtherPS and 13.1 months for NoPS patients (p ≤ 0.001). CushingPS is a prognostic factor of death (hazard ratio, 2.31; p ≤ 0.001).
CushingPS is the worst form of the paraneoplastic syndromes with particularly extensive tumors. Reduced objective response and sensitivity to first-line treatment and no response to second-line treatment suggest starting palliative care early at first line and exclusively at relapse.