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Br J Cancer. 1991 Sep;64(3):566-72.

A randomised trial of planned versus as required chemotherapy in small cell lung cancer: a Cancer Research Campaign trial.

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Department of Oncology, University College and Middlesex School of Medicine, London, UK.


In a study of chemotherapy as palliative treatment, 300 patients with untreated limited and extensive stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC), who did not have progressive disease after the first cycle of chemotherapy, were randomised to receive either regular 'planned' chemotherapy or chemotherapy given 'as required' (AR). All patients received the same chemotherapy: cyclophosphamide 1 gm m-2 i.v., vincristine 2 mg i.v., and etoposide 120 mg m-2 i.v. on day 1, and etoposide 100 mg b.d. orally on days 2 and 3. Planned chemotherapy was given regularly every 3 weeks. AR chemotherapy was given for tumour-related symptoms, or for radiological progression of disease. Both groups of patients were assessed every 3 weeks and a maximum of eight cycles of chemotherapy was given. A detailed quality of life assessment was made using daily diary cards. The median survival (MS) of patients given AR chemotherapy was not significantly worse than those receiving planned treatment [MS: Planned = 36 weeks (95% C.I. 32-40 weeks), AR = 32 weeks (95% C.I. 28-37 weeks) P = 0.960]. In the AR patients the median interval between treatments was 42 days. On average AR patients received half as much chemotherapy as planned patients. AR patients with a treatment-free interval (TFI) of more than 8 weeks between the first and second cycles of chemotherapy survived longer than those in whom this interval was less than 4 weeks; [MS: TFI greater than 8 = 47 weeks (95% C.I. 32-53 weeks); TFI less than 4 = 24 weeks (95% C.I. 17-34 weeks) P = 0.013]. Contrary to expectation, in the quality of life assessment the AR patients scored themselves as having more severe symptoms than patients receiving planned treatment. AR chemotherapy is a novel method of attempting to use cytotoxic drugs palliatively, which resulted in less drug treatment for approximately equivalent survival. However the palliative effect seen with as required treatment was less satisfactory than with planned chemotherapy.

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