One hundred and three patients with small cell lung carcinoma were stratified according to stage of disease (47 limited disease, 56 extensive disease) and then randomised to receive etoposide 300 mg/m2 alone for two days or a combination (VAC) of vincristine 1 mg/m2, doxorubicin (Adriamycin) 50 mg/m2, and cyclophosphamide 1000 mg/m2. The drugs were given at three week intervals. Patients were assessed after three cycles of treatment and continued with the same regimen if in complete remission and with the alternative regimen if in partial remission; they were withdrawn if the disease had progressed. Twenty four patients (23%) achieved complete remission and this occurred more often when patients were receiving VAC (19 of 82) than etoposide (5 of 75). There was no difference, however, in overall survival between those initially treated with etoposide and those having combination chemotherapy, whether for limited disease (both 8 months) or extensive disease (7 and 5.5 months). Toxicity was less with etoposide. Survival was disappointing, especially with limited disease, even in patients who showed a complete response to treatment.
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