Three versus six courses of etoposide, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and voncristine versus six courses of etoposide and ifosfamide in small cell lung cancer

How many cycles of chemotherapy should be given to people with small-cell lung cancer, and which combination of drugs is better?

What was this study about?

This trial aimed to compare three different chemotherapy treatments for people with small-cell lung cancer. People who took part in this trial were randomised into three groups:

  • People in one group were given three cycles of four different chemotherapy drugs - etoposide, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and vincristine
  • People in the second group were given six cycles of the same four drugs
  • People in the third group were given six cycles of two drugs - etoposide and ifosfamide

What difference did this study make?

People in each of the three groups lived for about the same amount of time. Researchers concluded that three cycles of the four drugs was the best option, as it caused the least inconvenience for patients.

This trial showed that most of the benefit of chemotherapy is achieved with the first 4 cycles. As a result most patients now only receive 3 or 4 cycles.

Type of study

Randomised trial

Contact details

When did it take place?

This trial recruited patients between 1985 and 1989. The results of the trial were published in 1993, in two reports. (The first report looked at survival. The second report looked at quality of life.)

Who was included?

544 people with small cell lung cancer took part in this trial.