A trial comparing early radiotherapy with late radiotherapy for small cell lung cancer

Cancer type:

Lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer




Phase 3

This trial looked at the best time to have radiotherapy alongside chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer. This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.

Doctors usually treat small cell lung cancer with chemotherapy. If you have limited disease, you are likely to have radiotherapy as well.

In this trial, the researchers wanted to find out the best time to start having the radiotherapy. Everybody taking part had chemotherapy and the treatment plan was for 6 cycles of treatment.

The aim of the trial was to find out if it is better to start radiotherapy during the 2nd cycle of chemotherapy (early) or during the 6th cycle of treatment (late).

Summary of results

There was no difference in survival between people having early or late radiotherapy. But more people in the early radiotherapy group stopped their chemotherapy because of side effects.

The trial recruited 325 people with limited disease small cell lung cancer

  • 159 people started radiotherapy during the 2nd cycle of chemotherapy
  • 166 people started chemotherapy during the 6th cycle

The researchers followed people for an average of just over 5 years. They also compared their results with the results of other, similar trials (a meta-analysis). They say that this detailed analysis showed that to get good results with a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it is important to complete the chemotherapy treatment as planned.

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 S Spiro

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
London Lung Cancer Group
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/88/001.

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 141

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

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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