Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive cancer of neuroendocrine origin, which is strongly associated with cigarette smoking. Patients typically present with a short duration of symptoms and frequently (60–65 %) with metastatic disease. SCLC is a heterogeneous disease including extremely chemosensitive and chemoresistant clones. For this reason, a high percentage of patients respond to first-line chemotherapy but rapidly succumb to the disease. SCLC is generally divided into two stages, limited and extensive. Standard treatment of limited stage disease includes combination chemotherapy with cisplatin and etoposide for four cycles, thoracic radiation initiated early with the first cycle of chemotherapy, and consideration of prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) in the subset of patients with good response. Surgery may play a role in TNM stages I and II. In extensive disease, platinum agents and etoposide, used in combination, are again the first-line standard of care in the USA. However, thoracic radiation therapy is used predominately in patients where local control is important and PCI is of uncertain benefit. Despite these treatments, prognosis remains poor and novel therapies are needed to improve survival in this disease.