A randomised controlled clinical trial of endobronchial treatment versus external beam radiotherapy in the management of endotracheal or endobronchial obstruction by lung cancer

What is the best method of treating cancer that has spread to block the windpipe?

What was this study about?

In the early 1990’s the usual treatment for people with lung cancer which had blocked their windpipe was radiotherapy. Doctors began to use new ways to treat people with this condition. They used laser treatment or cryotherapy. (Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue.)

The LU18 trial aimed to see whether each of these new treatments worked better (or worse) than radiotherapy.

What difference did this study make?

Researchers had hoped to recruit 400 patients to this trial over three years. But in over three years only 75 patients had been recruited. This trial was abandoned in 1996. This meant that researchers were unable to judge which type of treatment is better for people with lung cancer which has blocked the windpipe.

It was very difficult to recruit patients to this trial. It is often very difficult to test new approaches to treatment in a clinical trial. Sometimes, as was the case in this trial, this is because experts who have developed the techniques are convinced that they work well. So they don’t want to ask their patients to take part in a randomised controlled trial. Without trials, new techniques may continue to be used without any evidence about whether they are any better or worse than existing treatments.

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 1993 and 1996. A report about this trial was published in 1999.

Who was included?

75 patients from centres across the UK were randomised into three groups. People in the first group were given radiotherapy. Those in the second group were given laser treatment. Patients in the third group were given cryotherapy.