Supportive care versus supportive care and combination chemotherapy in metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Does chemotherapy make a difference?

Cancer. 1989 Apr 1;63(7):1271-8. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19890401)63:7<1271::aid-cncr2820630707>;2-6.


Current chemotherapy treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer has demonstrated some objective responses, but is still largely palliative. This report reviews the results of a randomized trial in patients with advanced metastatic non-small cell lung cancer which compared treatment with supportive care (treatment with palliative radiation, psychosocial support, analgesics, nutritional support) to supportive care plus combination chemotherapy with cisplatin and vinblastine. Although the patients receiving combination chemotherapy had a slightly longer median survival (20.43 weeks versus 13.57 weeks), it was not statistically significant (P = 0.09). In addition, the patients receiving chemotherapy experienced serious toxicity, and showed no significant benefit in terms of quality of life as measured by Karnofsky performance status score. The authors conclude that contemporary combination chemotherapy provides only modest survival benefit to patients with advanced metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and should not be considered standard therapy. Future investigations of chemotherapy in patients with unresectable non-small cell lung cancer should continue to utilize control arms which provide high-quality supportive care.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Palliative Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Random Allocation
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support*