Purpose: Gemcitabine has shown a broad range of activity in solid tumors, including previously untreated small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). The objective of this phase II trial was to investigate the activity of gemcitabine in patients with relapsed SCLC.
Patients and methods: SCLC patients with measurable disease who had experienced treatment failure with one prior chemotherapy regimen were considered eligible. Patients were required to have Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status of 0 to 2 and adequate organ function; signed informed consent was also required. Treatment consisted of gemcitabine 1,000 mg/m2 on days 1, 8, and 15 of a 28-day cycle. Patients were stratified according to their previous response to first-line chemotherapy (primary refractory v primary sensitive disease).
Results: Forty-six patients were enrolled onto this phase II trial (20 refractory and 26 sensitive patients). Forty-two of these patients were assessable for response and survival, and 44 were assessable for toxicity. Median patient age was 60 years, and median ECOG performance status was 1. Principal grade 3/4 hematologic toxicities included neutropenia (27%) and thrombocytopenia (27%). The main grade 3/4 nonhematologic toxicities were pulmonary (9%) and neurologic toxicity (14%). Objective responses occurred in 11.9% of patients overall, including one patient with refractory SCLC (5.6%) and four patients with sensitive SCLC (16.7%). Median survival for the overall group was 7.1 months. Survival was not significantly different for patients with refractory versus sensitive disease.
Conclusion: Gemcitabine has modest activity in previously treated SCLC patients. The favorable toxicity profile warrants further investigation, either in combination chemotherapy regimens or with targeted biologic compounds.