A randomised trial of 4-drug vs less intensive 2-drug chemotherapy in the palliative treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer and a poor prognosis

Can we improve the quality of life of people with lung cancer who are not expected to live for very long?

What was this study about?

Some people with a type of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which has spread are not expected to live long. Doctors aim to keep these people well for as long as possible. In the 1980’s doctors often used chemotherapy to treat these people. This did not cure the cancer, but it helped keep people alive a little longer. Some doctors used chemotherapy made up of 4 drugs, called etoposide, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and vincristine (ECMV). This caused a lot of unpleasant side effects, and sometimes led to death. So researchers developed the LU12 trial, to see if giving just two of these drugs - etoposide and vincristine (EV) could improve people’s quality of life whilst not reducing their length of life.

What difference did this study make?

This trial suggested that using the 2-drug chemotherapy was better for people with this type of lung cancer who were not expected to live for very long.

This trial led doctors to treat people with the 2-drug chemotherapy rather than the 4-drug chemotherapy. This improved the quality of life for people with this type of cancer. This trial also led researchers to develop a standard definition of ‘palliation’.

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 1989 and 1992. The results of the trial were published in 1996.

Who was included?

310 patients from centres across the UK were randomised to receive either the 4-drug chemotherapy (ECMV) or the 2-drug chemotherapy (EV).