Early versus late alternating chemotherapy in small-cell lung cancer

R. A. Joss, M. Bacchi, C. Hürny, J. Bernhard, T. Cerny, G. Martinelli, S. Leyvraz, H. J. Senn, R. Stahel, P. Siegenthaler, C. Ludwig, P. Alberto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: From 1984 to 1989, the Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research (SAKK) performed a randomized phase 111 trial comparing early versus late alternating chemotherapy in patients with small-cell lung cancer. Patients and methods: 406 eligible patients were entered into the trial. Regimen A consisted of PAV(cisPlatin, Adriamycin, VP 16-213, and Regimen B of CyMOC (Cyclophosphamide, Methotrexate, Oncovin, CCNU). Cycles were repeated as rapidly as possible. Patients were randomized to receive either ABABAB (early alternating chemotherapy) or AAABBB (late alternating chemotherapy). After six cycles patients with limited disease in complete or partial remission and those with extensive disease in complete remission received irradiation to the primary (45 Gy) and the CNS (36 Gy). Results: The overall remission rate was 87%, with 31% complete remissions. The median survival of all 406 eligible patients was 346 days, with 15% of the patients alive at two years. The overall remission rate, the rate of complete remission, the median survival and the rate of long-term survival were not significantly different in the two treatment arms. In limited disease the estimated percentages of survival at 2 years were 33% in the early and 24% in the late alternating chemotherapy arms. Patients with extensive disease survived significantly longer with late alternating chemotherapy than on the early alternation regimen (median survival 336 days versus 301 days, p=0.01). In the latter patients the received dose intensities (RD1) of cisplatin, adriamycin and etoposide were significantly higher in the late-alternation arm. Patients treated with early alternating chemotherapy rated their tumor symptoms, functional states, fatigue/malaise and restriction of social activity significantly better, reflecting an improved subjective adjustment. Conclusions: Alternating chemotherapy with PAV-Cy-MOC plus consolidating radiotherapy is a feasible and effective treatment for small-cell lung cancer, with acceptable toxicity. Whereas patnts with early alternating chemotherapy achieve a better subjective adjustment, late alternating chemotherapy allows for a higher RDI of cisplatin, adriamycin and etoposide, which results in a significantly longer median survival of patients with extensive disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1995


  • Alternating chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Dose intensity
  • Quality of life
  • Small-cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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