Big Lung Trial: A randomised trial to determine the value of cisplatin-based chemotherapy for all patients with non-small cell lung cancer

Can chemotherapy help people with lung cancer?

What was this study about?

In the 1990s, doctors offered a variety of treatments to people with non-small cell lung cancer. These included surgery, radiotherapy, or supportive care. researchers did a meta-analysis to look at whether adding chemotherapy to any of these treatments could help people to live longer. But they weren’t very confident about their findings – because the trials they looked at were small, and looked at different chemotherapy drugs (and at different doses of these drugs). The trials that had looked at supportive care didn’t ask people about their quality of life. So they designed the BLT trial.
The BLT trial was designed to include as many people with non-small cell lung cancer as possible. It aimed to check whether the results of the meta-analysis were right, and to look at the quality of life of people who were offered supportive care.

What difference did this study make?

This trial found that chemotherapy helped patients who were offered supportive care to live a little longer. It also found that it did not make a difference to people’s quality of life. It was much harder for researchers to draw conclusions about radiotherapy or an operation, because not enough people were offered these treatments.

This trial enabled many hospitals to begin to offer chemotherapy to this group of patients as part of a clinical trial.

Type of study

Randomised trial

Contact details

Who funded the study?

The Medical Research Council.

When did it take place?

This trial recruited patients between 1995 and 2001. Reports of this trial were published in 2003.

Where did it take place?

52 UK and 4 non-UK centres.

Who was included?

1374 patients. 725 were offered supportive care, 381 had an operation and 288 were given radiotherapy.