Twenty-two years of phase III trials for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: Sobering results

O. S. Breathnach, B. Freidlin, B. Conley, M. R. Green, D. H. Johnson, D. R. Gandara, M. O'Connell, F. A. Shepherd, B. E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

328 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the changes in clinical trials and outcomes of patients with advanced-stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated on phase III randomized trials initiated in North America from 1973 to 1994. Patients and Methods: Phase III trials for patients with advanced-stage NSCLC were identified through a search of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program database from 1973 to 1994, contact with Cooperative Groups, and by literature search of MEDLINE. Patients with advanced NSCLC treated during a similar time interval were also examined in the SEER database. Trends were tested in the number of trials, in the number and sex of patients entered on the trials, and in survival over time. Results: Thirty-three phase III trials were initiated between 1973 and 1994. Twenty-four trials (73%) were initiated within the first half of this period (1973 to 1983) and accounted for 5,359 (64%) of the 8,434 eligible patients. The median number of patients treated per arm of the trials rose from 77 (1973 to 1983) to 121 (1984 to 1994) (P < .001). Five trials (15%) showed a statistically significant difference in survival between treatment arms, with a median prolongation of the median survival of 2 months (range, 0.7 to 2.7 months). Conclusion: Analysis of past trials in North America shows that the prolongation in median survival between two arms of a randomized study was rarely in excess of 2 months. Techniques for improved use of patient resources and appropriate trial design for phase III randomized therapeutic trials with patients with advanced NSCLC need to be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1734-1742
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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