Medline: 9106647

The fulltext Journal of the National Cancer Institute 89(8): 577-580, 1997. is available online for subscribers.

Five-day oral etoposide treatment for advanced small-cell lung cancer: randomized comparison with intravenous chemotherapy.

Souhami RL, Spiro SG, Rudd RM, et al.


Oral etoposide is an active single agent in small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and is widely prescribed as first-line treatment as an alternative to intravenous combination chemotherapy in patients with extensive disease.

The intention of this study was to determine if the effects of oral etoposide therapy on survival and quality of life are equivalent to those of intravenous chemotherapy.

In a randomized trial of palliative treatment in advanced SCLC, oral etoposide (100 mg given twice daily for 5 days) was compared with intravenous chemotherapy consisting of alternating cycles of cisplatin and etoposide (PE) and cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine (CAV). Six cycles of chemotherapy were administered every 21 days in both regimens. Symptom control and quality of life were measured with the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist and a daily diary card. In January 1996, after 155 patients had been randomly assigned from a projected intake of 365 patients, an independent Data Monitoring Committee examined the interim results. Survival was determined by the Kaplan-Meier method, and the logrank test was used to compare treatments. For quality-of-life comparisons, average scores were calculated for each time point. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine any significant overall differences between treatments. For the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist, separate analyses were done for each subset (psychological well-being, physical symptoms, lung cancer symptoms, treatment symptoms, activity, and quality of life). Response rates and toxicity scores were compared by using chi2. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Survival was inferior at 1 year in the oral etoposide group compared with intravenous therapy (9.8% for oral versus 19.3% for intravenous; difference = 9.5%; 95% confidence interval of difference = 0.3%-18.7%; P<.05), and there was a trend toward inferior overall survival. Median survival was 4.8 months for oral treatment and 5.9 months for intravenous therapy. Progression-free survival was worse in the oral etoposide arm (median = 3.6 months versus 5.6 months; P<.001), as well as overall response rate (32.9% versus 46.3%; P<.01). With the exception of acute nausea and vomiting associated with intravenous chemotherapy, all aspects of symptom control and quality of life were either the same or worse in the oral etoposide group. Study closure was recommended.

These interim results show that this schedule of oral etoposide is inferior to intravenous chemotherapy in the treatment of advanced SCLC and should not be used as first-line treatment of this disease.

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