Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of first-line chemotherapy for adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Health Technol Assess. 2013 Jul;17(31):1-278. doi: 10.3310/hta17310.


Background: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued multiple guidance for the first-line management of patients with lung cancer and recommends different combinations of chemotherapy treatments. This review provides a synthesis of clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness evidence supporting current guidance.

Objectives: To evaluate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of first-line chemotherapy currently licensed in Europe and recommended by NICE, for adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Data sources: Three electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE and The Cochrane Library) were searched from 2001 to August 2010.

Review methods: Trials that compared first-line chemotherapy currently licensed in Europe and recommended by NICE in chemotherapy-naive adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC were included. Data on key outcomes including, but not limited to, overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) and adverse events (AEs) were extracted. For the assessment of cost-effectiveness, outcomes included incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained. Analyses were performed for three NSCLC subpopulations: patients with predominantly squamous disease, patients with predominantly non-squamous disease and patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation-positive (M+) status. Meta-analysis and mixed-treatment comparison methodology were conducted where appropriate.

Results: Twenty-three trials involving > 11,000 patients in total met the inclusion criteria. The quality of the trials was poor. In the case of patients with squamous disease, there were no statistically significant differences in OS between treatment regimes. The mixed-treatment comparison demonstrated that, in patients with non-squamous disease, pemetrexed (Alimta®, Eli Lilly and Company; PEM) + platinum (PLAT) increases OS statistically significantly compared with gemcitabine (Gemzar®, Eli Lilly and Company; GEM) + PLAT [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.85; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.74 to 0.98] and that paclitaxel (Abraxane®, Celgene Corporation; PAX) + PLAT increases OS statistically significantly compared with docetaxel (Taxotere®, Sanofi-aventis; DOC) + PLAT (HR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.93). None of the comparisons found any statistically significant differences in OS among patients with EGFR M+ status. Direct meta-analysis showed a statistically significant improvement in PFS with gefitinib (Iressa®, AstraZeneca; GEF) compared with DOC + PLAT and PAX + PLAT (HR = 0.49; 95% CI 0.33 to 0.73; and HR = 0.38; 95% CI 0.24 to 0.60, respectively). No papers related to UK decision-making were identified. A de novo economic model was developed. Using list prices (British National Formulary), cisplatin (CIS) doublets are preferable to carboplatin doublets, but this is reversed if electronic market information tool prices are used, in which case drug administration costs then become more important than drug acquisition costs. For patients with both squamous and non-squamous disease, moving from low to moderate willingness-to-pay thresholds, the preferred drugs are PAX → GEM → DOC. However, in patients with non-squamous disease, PEM + CIS resulted in increased OS and would be considered cost-effective up to £35,000 per QALY gained. For patients with EGFR M+, use of GEF compared with PAX or DOC yields very high incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. Vinorelbine (Navelbine®, Pierre Fabre Pharmaceutical Inc.) was not shown to be cost-effective in any comparison.

Limitations: Poor trial quality and a lack of evidence for all drug comparisons complicated and limited the data analysis. Outcomes and adverse effects are not consistently combined across the trials. Few trials reported quality-of-life data despite their relevance to patients and clinicians.

Conclusions: The results of this comprehensive review are unique to NSCLC and will assist clinicians to make decisions regarding the treatment of patients with advanced NSCLC. The design of future lung cancer trials needs to reflect the influence of factors such as histology, genetics and the new prognostic biomarkers that are currently being identified. In addition, trials will need to be adequately powered so as to be able to test for statistically significant clinical effectiveness differences within patient populations. New initiatives are in place to record detailed information on the precise chemotherapy (and targeted chemotherapy) regimens being used, together with data on age, cell type, stage of disease and performance status, allowing for very detailed observational audits of management and outcomes at a population level. It would be useful if these initiatives could be expanded to include the collection of health economics data.

Funding: The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years


  • ErbB Receptors