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BACKGROUND: Information on the effect of chemotherapy in a group of patients with poor prognosis, poor performance status small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) is scarce. A randomized study comparing single-agent carboplatin with combination chemotherapy in this largely unreported population of SCLC patients was undertaken. METHODS: One hundred nineteen patients were allocated to four cycles of either cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine (CAV) or single-agent carboplatin. Patients had either a Karnofsky performance score < or = 50 and/or a prognostic score indicative of a 1-year survival rate < or = 15%. RESULTS: Grade 3-4 neutropenia and intravenous antibiotic use were significantly more common with the CAV regimen (P < 0.005). Conversely, Grade 3-4 thrombocytopenia was more common (P < 0.0009) and platelet transfusion was more frequent (P < 0.05) with carboplatin therapy. Nonhematologic toxicity was similar in both treatment arms, except for alopecia with CAV therapy (P < 0.0007). Symptom relief occurred in 48% and 41% of patients in the CAV and carboplatin treatment arms, respectively. Dyspnea was improved in 66% and 41% of patients and cough was improved in 21% and 7% of patients in the CAV and carboplatin treatment arms, respectively. CAV therapy produced a higher response rate than carboplatin (38% vs. 25%), but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.15). The median overall survival for patients in the CAV and carboplatin treatment arms was 17 weeks and 15.9 weeks, respectively, with 1-year survival rates of 12% and 6%. CONCLUSIONS: Single-agent carboplatin is a feasible treatment in patients with poor prognosis SCLC and produces response rates, relief of tumor-related symptoms, and survival similar to what is seen in patients who receive CAV chemotherapy. The lower risk of life-threatening sepsis and less need for hospitalization or intravenous antibiotic courses is advantageous in this susceptible patient population.


Journal article



Publication Date





601 - 608


Aged, Antineoplastic Agents, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Carboplatin, Carcinoma, Small Cell, Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin, Female, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Prognosis, Survival Analysis, Vincristine