Paclitaxel (Taxol; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Princeton, NJ) is one of the most commonly used agents in treating patients with locally advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is usually given once every 3 weeks. We have evaluated paclitaxel given once per week for 3 weeks every 4 weeks for patients with recurrent or metastatic NSCLC. Two consecutive studies using weekly paclitaxel were performed. The first study was a dose-escalation study with paclitaxel beginning at 50 mg/m2 days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks. Subsequent dose escalation was performed with 10 mg/m2 increments per week. The second phase II study used paclitaxel at 80 mg/m2 days 1, 8, and 15 every 4 weeks. The phase I study showed that the maximum tolerated dose was 90 mg/m2/wk for 3 weeks with 1 week off. The efficacy and side effects of both phase I and II were quite similar; therefore, the results were combined. Seventeen patients were in the phase I and 30 patients in the phase II study. The mean age was 72 years. Twenty-three patients had Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 2 and 16 patients had received prior chemotherapy. One complete and 13 partial responses were observed with response duration ranging from 1 to 18+ months. Overall response rate was 30% (95% confidence interval, 18.5% to 42%). Overall median survival was 184 days. Grade 3/4 neutropenia was 8.5%, grade 3/4 infections was 6.4%, and grade 2 peripheral neuropathy was also 6.4%. Hyperglycemia with random blood sugar levels greater than 250 mg/dL was 6.4% and grade 3 fatigue was 4.3%. In general, treatment was well tolerated. In the best prognostic group of 16 patients without prior chemotherapy and with performance status 0 to 1, the response rate was 37.5% with a 1-year survival rate of 44% and median survival of 305 days. Prior chemotherapy, poor performance status, age higher than 70 years, and male gender carried a worse prognosis. In both phase I and II studies we observed limited myelosuppression, peripheral neuropathy, and constitutional symptoms. Weekly paclitaxel, delivered at our schedule, is an active and well-tolerated regimen. The role of weekly paclitaxel in NSCLC should be better defined in future randomized studies.
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