Background: Survival of patients with locally advanced, unresectable (stage III), non-small-cell lung cancer treated with radiotherapy is poor. Trials of the addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy have produced conflicting results.
Objective: To compare chemotherapy plus radiotherapy with radiotherapy alone in patients with stage III, non-small-cell lung cancer.
Data Sources: English-language journal articles published between 1987 and 1995 identified in a MEDLINE search.
Study Selection: Randomized trials that reported survival after previously untreated patients received chemotherapy plus radiotherapy or radiotherapy alone were reviewed.
Data Extraction: For all eligible articles, reported survival curves were used to determine the relative risk for death in each of 3 years. These data were combined to determine a pooled estimate of the relative risk for death at 1, 2, and 3 years.
Data Synthesis: Fourteen articles reporting on a total of 2589 patients were reviewed. Compared with radiotherapy, the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy reduced the risk for death at 1 year (relative risk, 0.88 [95% CI, 0.80 to 0.96]), 2 years (relative risk, 0.87 [CI, 0.81 to 0.94]), and 3 years (relative risk, 0.83 [CI, 0.77 to 0.90]). This corresponded to a mean gain in life expectancy of about 2 months. The magnitude of the treatment effect was similar when trials of concurrently and sequentially administered chemotherapy were considered separately.
Conclusion: The addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy improves survival in patients with locally advanced, unresectable, non-small-cell lung cancer. The absolute benefit is relatively small, however, and should be balanced against the increased toxicity associated with the addition of chemotherapy.