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Br J Cancer. 1979 Jul;40(1):1-10.

Radiotherapy alone or with chemotherapy in the treatment of small-cell carcinoma of the lung. Medical Research Council Lung Cancer Working Party.

[No authors listed]


This report gives the complete findings at one year of a study comparing radiotherapy (Rt) with radiotherapy followed by 3-drug chemotherapy (RtC3) in the treatment of histologically proven small-cell carcinoma of the lung of limited extent. Over the 12-month period there was a significantly increased survival for the RtC3 patients (P = 0.002) and at 12 months 18% of the 121 Rt but 34% of the 115 RtC3 patients were alive (P = 0.009). The median survival for the Rt series was 25 weeks and for the RtC3 series 43 weeks. There was evidence of recurrence of the primary cancer in 32 (32%) of the 99 Rt and 20 (26%) of the 76 RtC3 patients who died. Distant metastases appeared earlier and were more frequent in the Rt series (P less than 0.0001) and over the 12-month period 79% of the Rt and 57% of the RtC3 patients developed distant metastases (P less than 0.0005). At 12 months only 8% of the Rt but 26% of the RtC3 patients were alive and free of metastases. Adverse reactions occurred much more frequently in the RtC3 series; 32% of the Rt series as against 83% of the RtC3 series had reactions, the most common being nausea and vomiting (13% Rt, 71% RtC3) and the most serious being marrow depression (23% Rt, 54% RtC3). No important differences were found among the survivors in the 2 series at 3, 6 or 12 months, in general condition, physical activity or respiratory function. It is concluded that radiotherapy plus chemotherapy was superior to radiotherapy alone, although chemotherapy did not protect patients from recurrence of primary growth.

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