A randomised trial of palliative 2-fraction vs more intensive 13-fraction radiotherapy for patients with inoperable NSCLC and a good performance status

Which type of radiotherapy is best for people with lung cancer?

What was this study about?

Doctors aim to operate on people with a type of cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to remove the cancer. But they aren’t able to operate on everyone, because the cancer has spread too far. So they treat these patients with a short course of radiotherapy. Some people with this type of NSCLC are well enough to have more intensive treatment. This might help to improve their quality and length of life.

The LU13 trial aimed to test 2 types of radiotherapy treatment in this group of patients – a simple short course of radiotherapy and a longer more intensive course of radiotherapy.

What difference did this study make?

People who received the more intensive radiotherapy seemed to live longer than those who received the simple, short course of radiotherapy. However, the simpler course of radiotherapy improved people’s symptoms more quickly than the more intensive radiotherapy. People in both groups reported that they had difficulty swallowing, but these symptoms went away more quickly for those people who had the simple short course of radiotherapy.

Instead of making a clear recommendation about which of these two types of radiotherapy treatment is best for this group of patients, researchers spelled out the advantages and disadvantages of each type of treatment. They hoped this would help patients and their doctors to make informed choices about which treatment to choose.

This trial led doctors to treat most people with the simpler course of radiotherapy. The more intensive treatment is reserved for the fittest patients. For these people, the more intensive treatment could improve the length of their lives.

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?

509 patients from centres across the UK were randomised to receive either the simple short course of radiotherapy or the more intensive course of radiotherapy.