A trial looking at standard treatment with or without chemotherapy for non small lung cancer (Big Lung Trial)

Cancer type:

Lung cancer
Non small cell lung cancer

Status:

Results

Phase:

Phase 3

This trial looked at surgery, radiotherapy or best supportive care with or without chemotherapy for people with non small lung cancer.

Depending on the stage of the cancer, doctors usually treat non small lung cancer with surgery, radiotherapy or best supportive care Open a glossary item. Earlier research showed combination chemotherapy that included the drug cisplatin could be helpful for people with non small cell lung cancer. So the doctors running this trial wanted to find out if having chemotherapy with standard treatment is useful for this group of patients.

The aims of this large trial were to find out

  • If having chemotherapy in addition to surgery, radiotherapy or best supportive care controls the cancer for longer
  • More about side effects and quality of life

Summary of results

The researchers in this trial found that adding chemotherapy to radiotherapy or surgery was not a useful treatment for non small cell lung cancer. But they say it did help people who had best supportive care.

1, 394 people with non small cell lung cancer took part in the trial

  • 381 had surgery
  • 288 had radiotherapy
  • 725 had best supportive care

In each of the 3 different treatment groups, half had their treatment alone and half had their treatment and one of the following chemotherapy combinations

The researchers analysed the results in 2003. They looked at how well the treatment worked. They found that having chemotherapy with surgery or radiotherapy did not work any better than either treatment alone.

When they looked at the results for the best supportive group, they found that adding chemotherapy to best supportive care helped this group of patients without affecting quality of life. The number of people alive one year after treatment was slightly higher in the group who had best supportive care and chemotherapy (29%) compared to the group who had best supportive care alone (20%). On average, the people who had chemotherapy and best supportive care lived about 2 ½ months longer than the group who had best supportive care alone.

The main side effects of chemotherapy included a drop in blood cells and feeling or being sick. The side effects were worse for people who had 3 different chemotherapy drugs compared to those who had had 2.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Robin Rudd
Professor SG Spiro

Supported by

British Thoracic Society
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
The National Health Service (NHS)

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 958

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

Last reviewed:

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