Background: No standard treatment is defined for elderly patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Carboplatin and etoposide are highly active agents against SCLC. In this study, we evaluated the activity and toxicity of a combination of these two agents.
Patients and methods: Thirty-four untreated patients with limited or extensive SCLC and median age of 73.9 years entered the study. Chemotherapy consisted of carboplatin i.v. on day 1 (AUC 5 using Calvert's formula) and etoposide 100 mg/m(2) given orally on days 1-5, every 4 weeks, and thoracic irradiation was given to limited disease patients after chemotherapy.
Results: The overall response rates was 59% (95% CI: 43-76). The median survival for all patients was 37 weeks (range 3-76 weeks). The toxicity was mainly haematological with grade 3-4 neutropenia in 59% of courses, febrile neutropenia in 15% of courses, and toxic death in 9% of patients.
Conclusion: The results of this regimen are disappointing with worse response and survival, and more haematological toxicity than expected and previously reported, despite the use of Calvert's formula. Possible explanations are the use of etoposide per os rather than i.v., the frequent comorbidities of older patients and the inclusion of patients with poor prognosis factors.