NSCLC histology

Learn about subtypes of NSCLC, the prognostic impact of squamous histology, and the role histological and molecular biomarkers play in treatment selection.


Biopsy samples are used to determine lung cancer subtype1

Percentage of patients by subtype:

  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): 10% to 15%
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): 85% to 90%
    – Squamous cell cancer: 25% to 30%
    – Adenocarcinoma: 40%
    – Large cell carcinoma: 10% to 15%
    – Other subtypes: ~15%

References: 1. American Cancer Society. Lung cancer (non-small cell). https//www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcon-
tent/003115-pdf.pdf. Last medical review August 15, 2014. Last revised March 11, 2016.  Accessed March 14, 2016. 2. Vaporciyan AA, et al. In: Bast RC Jr, et al, ed. Holland-Frei Cancer Medicine. 5th ed. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker; 2000;chap 88. Accessed July 18, 2015. 3. National Cancer Institute. Non-small cell lung cancer treatment-for health professionals (PDQ®). http://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/h-
p/non-small-cell-lung-treatment-pdq#section/all. Updated January 22, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2016. 4. Moran CA, Suster S. Non-small cell carcinomas of the lung. In:Tumors and Tumor-like Conditions of the Lung and Pleura. 2010; Philadelphia: Elsevier Health Sciences. 5. Davidson MR, Gazder AF, Clarke BE.The pivotal role of pathology in the management of lung cancer. J thorac Dis 2013;(suppl 5):S463-S478. 6. Kawase A, Yoshid J, Ishii G, et al. Differences between squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the lung ; are adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma prognostically equal? Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2012;42(3):189-195.


Squamous NSCLC is associated with poorer prognosis than adenocarcinoma1

*Data collected from the first 9 registries supported by SEER, representing nearly 10% of the US population. Based on NSCLC diagnosed during 1988-2003.

Reference: 1. Cetin K, Ettinger DS, Hei Y-j, O’Malley CD. Survival by histologic subtype in stage IV nonsmall cell lung cancer based on data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program. Clin Epidemiol. 2011;3:139-148


Histology and molecular biomarkers impact current NCCN Guidelines® for treatment of recurrent and metastatic NSCLC1

ALK = anaplastic lymphoma; EGFR = epidermal growth factor receptor.

References: 1. Referenced with permission from the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines ® ) for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, v3.2017. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed June 14, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to NCCN.org. NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK ®, NCCN ®, NCCN GUIDELINE®, and all other NCCN Content are trademarks owned by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, inc. 2. Gupta R, Dastane AM, Forozan F, et al. Evaluation of EGFR abnormalities in patients with pulmonary adenocarcinoma: the need to test neoplasms with more than one method. Mod Pathol. 2009;22(1):128-133. 3. American Cancer Society. Lung cancer (non-small cell). http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcon-tent/003115-pdf.pdf. Last medical review August 15, 2014. Last revised March 11, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2016. 4. FDA News Release. March 11, 2016. Accessed March 25, 2016.

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