A randomised trial of oral etoposide vs intravenous multi-drug chemotherapy in the palliative treatment of patients with small cell lung cancer and a poor prognosis

Can a drug called etoposide improve the quality of life of people with lung cancer?

What was this study about?

Some people with a type of lung cancer called small cell lung cancer (SCLC) do not live for very long after their cancer is diagnosed. These people are usually treated with chemotherapy intravenously (via a drip into their arm) to help to reduce their symptoms. But there is no cure, and often they do not live for very long. Doctors wanted to find out if an oral chemotherapy treatment (i.e. a pill rather than a drip into the arm) would give people fewer unwanted side effects.

The LU16 trial aimed to see whether an oral chemotherapy treatment called etoposide would give people fewer side effects than the usual intravenous chemotherapy drugs used to treat this group of people.

What difference did this study make?

This trial was stopped early on the advice of the Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee. This was because etoposide seemed to cause more side effects than the normal treatment, and patients also seemed to die more quickly. A similar trial which was carried out at the same time by the London Lung Cancer Group came up with the same results.

Researchers recommended that oral etoposide should not be used to treat this group of patients.

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 1992 and 1995. A report of this trial was published in 1996.

Who was included?

370 patients from centres across the UK were randomised to receive either oral etoposide or the normal intravenous chemotherapy treatment.