Background: Gemcitabine has been widely studied in elderly patients affected by advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). A prolonged constant infusion (10 mg/m2/min) has been proposed as a way to improve its efficacy. Aim of this study is to describe activity and toxicity of single-agent gemcitabine given as prolonged infusion in the treatment of elderly patients with advanced NSCLC. Patients and methods: Patients aged 70 years or older, with stage IV or IIIB (effusion/supraclavicular nodes) NSCLC, good performance status (0 or 1 according to ECOG classification) who had never received chemotherapy were eligible. Gemcitabine was administered at the dose of 1200 mg/m2 by prolonged infusion (10 mg/m2/min) on days 1 and 8 of each cycle. Courses were repeated every 21 days, for a maximum of 6 cycles, unless disease progression or severe toxicity. A single stage phase 2 design was applied, with 51 patients required to estimate a 25% ± 10% response rate. Ten responses were required to define the treatment as active. Results: Fifty-one patients were enrolled, with a median age of 76 years (range 70-83). Two complete responses and seven partial responses were observed, for an overall response rate of 17.6% (95% exact C.I.: 8.4-30.9%). The median time to disease progression was 16.1 weeks (95% C.I.: 11.1-20.6) and the median overall survival was 41.3 weeks (95% C.I.: 27.6-50.6). There were 2 toxic deaths, due to bleeding and liver toxicity, and one patient had an ischemic stroke. Other non-haematological toxicities were: fatigue (44% of patients), grade 2-3 pulmonary toxicity (8%), grade 2-3 hepatic toxicity (16%). Nausea and stomatitis were mild and no cases of cardiac toxicity were observed. Haematological toxicity was mild, with no case of febrile neutropenia. Conclusion: Gemcitabine at prolonged constant infusion produced a response rate lower than that required by study design and should no longer be of interest for the treatment of elderly patients with advanced NSCLC.
- Elderly patients
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