Background: For small-cell lung cancer confined to one hemithorax (limited small-cell lung cancer), thoracic radiotherapy improves survival, but the best ways of integrating chemotherapy and thoracic radiotherapy remain unsettled. Twice-daily accelerated thoracic radiotherapy has potential advantages over once-daily radiotherapy.
Methods: We studied 417 patients with limited small-cell lung cancer. All the patients received four 21-day cycles of cisplatin plus etoposide. We randomly assigned these patients to receive a total of 45 Gy of concurrent thoracic radiotherapy, given either twice daily over a three-week period or once daily over a period of five weeks.
Results: Twice-daily treatment beginning with the first cycle of chemotherapy significantly improved survival as compared with concurrent once-daily radiotherapy (P=0.04 by the log-rank test). After a median follow-up of almost 8 years, the median survival was 19 months for the once-daily group and 23 months for the twice-daily group. The survival rates for patients receiving once-daily radiotherapy were 41 percent at two years and 16 percent at five years. For patients receiving twice-daily radiotherapy, the survival rates were 47 percent at two years and 26 percent at five years. Grade 3 esophagitis was significantly more frequent with twice-daily thoracic radiotherapy, occurring in 27 percent of patients, as compared with 11 percent in the once-daily group (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Four cycles of cisplatin plus etoposide and a course of radiotherapy (45 Gy, given either once or twice daily) beginning with cycle 1 of the chemotherapy resulted in overall two- and five-year survival rates of 44 percent and 23 percent, a considerable improvement in survival rates over previous results in patients with limited small-cell lung cancer.