Purpose: Docetaxel has shown activity in elderly patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This randomized phase III trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of docetaxel versus vinorelbine (the current standard treatment) in elderly patients.
Patients and methods: Chemotherapy-naïve patients age 70 years or older with stage IIIB/IV NSCLC and performance status 2 or lower were eligible. Patients randomly received docetaxel 60 mg/m2 (day 1) or vinorelbine 25 mg/m2 (days 1 and 8) every 21 days for four cycles. The primary end point was overall survival. Overall disease-related symptom improvement was assessed using an eight-item questionnaire.
Results: In total, 182 patients were enrolled. Median age was 76 years (range, 70 years to 86 years). There was no statistical difference in median overall survival with docetaxel versus vinorelbine (14.3 months v 9.9 months; hazard ratio, 0.780; 95% CI, 0.561 to 1.085; P = .138). There was a significant difference in median progression-free survival (5.5 months v 3.1 months; P < .001). Response rates were also significantly improved with docetaxel versus vinorelbine (22.7% v 9.9%; P = .019). The most common grade 3 to 4 toxicities were neutropenia (82.9% for docetaxel; 69.2% for vinorelbine; P = .031) and leukopenia (58.0% for docetaxel; 51.7% for vinorelbine). Other toxicities were mild and generally well tolerated. Docetaxel improved overall disease-related symptoms over vinorelbine (odds ratio, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.09 to 3.20).
Conclusion: Docetaxel improved progression-free survival, response rate, and disease-related symptoms versus vinorelbine. Overall survival was not statistically significantly improved at this time. Docetaxel monotherapy may be considered as an option in the standard treatment of elderly patients with advanced NSCLC.