Background: Paclitaxel (Taxol) plus carboplatin (PC) has shown activity in the treatment of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Non-platinum-containing combination chemotherapy, such as paclitaxel plus gemcitabine (PG), has also demonstrated reasonable efficacy. Our aim here was to evaluate the clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness of PC versus PG in chemo-naive, and advanced NSCLC patients. Patients and methods: Ninety (68 male, 22 female) patients were enrolled from August 1999 to August 2000. The performance status was one in 29 patients and two in 16 patients of the PC group, and one in 24 patients and two in 21 patients of the PG group. Seventeen patients had stage IIIb disease and 28 patients stage IV disease in the PC group; 18 patients had stage IIIb disease and 27 patients stage IV disease in the PG group (New International Staging System). Treatment consisted of P 175 mg/m2 and C at AUC = 7 (predicted using measured clearances and the Calvert formula) intravenous infusion (i.v.) on day 1, or P 175 mg/m2 i.v. on day 1 and G 1000 mg/m2 i.v. on days 1 and 8, every 3 weeks. Results: In all, 175 cycles of PC and 184 cycles of PG were given in the PC and PG groups, respectively. The median treatment cycle was four cycles in both groups. All the patients were assessable for toxicity and response measurement. There were three complete responses and 15 partial responses (overall 40%) in the PC group, and no complete response, but 18 partial responses (overall 40%) in the PG group. WHO grades 3/4 leukopenia, anemia and thrombocytopenia occurred in six (13.3%), seven (15.5%) and five patients (11.1%) in the PC group; and in four (8.9%), six (13.3%) and 0 patients in the PG group, respectively. Two patients in each group suffered from grade 3 peripheral neuropathy. Other non-hematological toxicities were mild and few. Median survival time was 14.1 months in the PC group and 12.6 months in the PG group. One-year survival was 50.7% in the PC group and 53.3% in the PG group. The PG group had a higher total expense and expended more days undergoing treatment than the PC group (P = 0.034 and 0.069, respectively). Conclusions: Both PC and PG combination chemotherapy produce a similar efficacy in the treatment of NSCLC. However, PC is more cost-effective than PG.
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