Treatment of malignant pleural effusions with a combination of bleomycin and tetracycline. A comparison of bleomycin or tetracycline alone versus a combination of bleomycin and tetracycline

Cancer. 1996 Dec 15;78(12):2498-501. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19961215)78:12<2498::aid-cncr8>;2-g.


Background: Treatment of patients with malignant pleural effusions is mostly palliative. Tetracycline and bleomycin are the two most commonly used agents for the treatment of pleurodesis. In this study, the authors used a combination of the two drugs for this particular purpose.

Methods: Sixty patients with massive malignant pleural effusions were divided in 3 equal groups in a simple randomized manner. Tetracycline (20 mg/kg [maximum of 2 g] in 50 mL of normal saline) was administered through a chest tube in Group 1. Group 2 received bleomycin (1 U/kg [maximum of 60 U] in 50 mL of normal saline). Group 3 received the above 2 preparations (tetracycline, 20 mg/kg [maximum of 2 g] in 40 mL of normal saline and bleomycin, 1 U/kg [maximum of 60 U] in 30 mL of normal saline) instilled one after the other, while the chest tube was clamped for 5 minutes in the interim. Follow-up examinations were performed at 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 6 months.

Results: There was no significant difference in the complete response rate of the 3 groups during the first 4 months. At the end of the study, Group 3 had a significantly higher complete response rate (70%) compared with Groups 1 and 2 (35% and 25%, respectively) (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: The response to use of a combination of bleomycin and tetracycline for the treatment of patients with pleurodesis is superior to that achieved by either of these agents used alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use*
  • Bleomycin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / drug therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Tetracycline / therapeutic use*


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Bleomycin
  • Tetracycline