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Persons with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (stage IIIB) often undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy, with a combination of drugs, to alleviate the symptoms of disease and prolong survival time. Chemotherapy with cisplatin/etoposide and radiation therapy is 1 of the most effective regimens currently being provided. However, administering docetaxel after the treatment with cisplatin/etoposide and radiation therapy appears to further prolong survival times, reported researchers at the May 2000 American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a term used to describe several types of lung cancer, including epidermoid or squamous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma. Treatment options for NSCLC may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or biologic therapy, depending on the stage of the cancer (extent of disease at diagnosis).

Stage IIIB NSCLC is usually inoperable and is characterized by cancer that originated in the lung and then spread to other parts of the chest (sometimes called advanced disease). Several chemotherapy combinations may be used to treat persons with this type of disease, with 2 of the most active being

Gemzar® or etoposide combined with cisplatin. Researchers continue to develop and study new drugs and drug combinations with the hope of providing more effective treatment options.

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Researchers affiliated with the Southwest Oncology Group presented the results of a clinical trial involving 71 men and women with stage IIIB NSCLC. The patients received cisplatin/etoposide every 4 weeks, with concurrent radiation therapy. After completion of the radiation therapy and cisplatin/etoposide, they received docetaxel 1 day every 3 weeks. The 1-year survival rate was 73% and the 2-year survival rate 47%. Side effects of docetaxel mainly consisted of low blood counts, with 1 patient dying of infection. The researchers noted that these findings were superior to their previous studies of cancer therapies for advanced NSCLC, the best of which produced a 1-year survival rate of 58% and a 2-year survival rate of 34%.

The researchers concluded that the combination of radiation therapy with cisplatin/etoposide, followed by docetaxel, appears to be an optimal treatment regimen for patients with stage IIIB NSCLC. Persons who have this type of cancer may wish to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of receiving treatment with a regimen of radiation therapy and cisplatin/etoposide followed by docetaxel or other promising new treatment strategies being evaluated in clinical trials. Two sources of information on ongoing clinical trials include clinical trials listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute ( and also performs personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients. (Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting, Vol 19, Abstract 1916, p 490a, 2000)

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