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High-Dose Chemo Fails Against Small Cell Lung Cancers

Tripled dose was ineffective and toxic, so strategy should be abandoned, study says

WEDNESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- High-intensity chemotherapy does not improve the survival rate of patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a new Swiss study concludes.

Testing on 140 patients in a randomized trial showed no statistically significant differences in survival rate or tumor size between groups receiving either standard or high doses of chemo over a three-year period. The findings were published online April 8 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers thought upping the amount of chemotherapy might help the patients live longer because laboratory data had suggested that higher doses kill SCLC cells resistant to standard doses.

"The approach explored in the present trial succeeded in raising the peak dose, total dose and dose intensity of (the chemotherapy drugs) by threefold but has clearly been ineffective and highly toxic," the authors wrote. "As a result, this strategy should be abandoned."

SCLC accounts for almost 13 percent of lung cancer cases in the United States. While many patients initially respond to chemotherapy, most suffer disease recurrence relatively quickly.

The study, lead by Dr. Serge Leyvraz of the University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, compared high-dose and standard-dose chemotherapy using the drug agents: ifosfamide, carboplatin and etoposide (ICE).

The survival rates in the group were similar: 18 percent of the high-dose patients were alive after three years, 19 percent of standard-dose patients survived. Tumor shrinkage was also similar in the two groups: 78 percent among the high-dose recipients and 68 percent in the standard-dose arm.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about lung cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, April 8, 2008

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