A phase IIb trial assessing the addition of disulfiram to chemotherapy for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer

Oncologist. 2015 Apr;20(4):366-7. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2014-0424. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


Background: Disulfiram, an alcohol aversion agent, has been in use for >50 years. Numerous authors have reported an anticancer effect of this drug in vitro and in mouse models. More recently, several reports have claimed that disulfiram also possesses anti-stem cell activity. We set out to obtain initial data regarding the safety of combining this drug with chemotherapy and the possible effectiveness of disulfiram in a combination regimen in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Methods: This phase II, multicenter, randomized, double-blinded study assessed the safety and efficacy of adding of disulfiram to cisplatin and vinorelbine for six cycles. Newly diagnosed NSCLC patients were recruited. Patients with either stage IV or what was considered at the time "wet IIIb" (since 2009, these patients have been considered stage IV) were recruited. The patients were treated with only chemotherapy, and none were treated with either surgery or chemoradiation. Disulfiram was administered at a dose of 40 mg three times daily.

Results: Forty patients were treated for more than two cycles, half with and half without disulfiram, which was well tolerated. An increase in survival was noted for the experimental group (10 vs. 7.1 months). Interestingly, there were only two long-term survivors, both in the disulfiram group.

Conclusion: The addition of disulfiram to a combination regimen of cisplatin and vinorelbine was well tolerated and appeared to prolong survival in patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer. The results from this small study seem encouraging enough for assessment in larger trials. Disulfiram is an inexpensive and safe drug; if its addition to chemotherapy could be shown to prolong survival, an effective regimen could be established and used widely, even in resource-poor countries.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00312819.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Disulfiram / administration & dosage
  • Disulfiram / adverse effects
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Survivors
  • Vinblastine / administration & dosage
  • Vinblastine / analogs & derivatives
  • Vinorelbine


  • Vinblastine
  • Cisplatin
  • Vinorelbine
  • Disulfiram

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00312819