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The incidence and risk of septic complications in 382 patients treated for small cell lung cancer with combination chemotherapy at a single centre have been analysed. Full protocol doses were employed throughout with no dose reduction after episodes of severe or life-threatening sepsis (SLTS). 50 (13%) patients experienced 66 episodes of SLTS associated with 1978 cycles of chemotherapy (3.2% cycles affected). 20 (5.2%) patients died due to sepsis (SD) of whom only 4 had experienced SLTS with a previous cycle of treatment. The others died as a result of their first septic episode. A model comprising four variables, age (≤ 50 or > 50 years), Karnofsky performance status (KP ≤ 50 or > 50), treatment (two- or three-drug regimen) and previous sepsis (SLTS or no SLTS with previous cycles) was found to satisfactorily describe the incidence of SLTS and SD in the study population and once validated in another patient groups this model should allow identification of high-risk individuals before treatment starts. If so, we propose that high-risk patients (age > 50 years, KP ≤ 50, treatment with three-drug regimen) receive 50% of protocol doses in the first cycle of treatment with escalation to 75% and eventually 100% doses in subsequent cycles if sepsis dose not supervene. Those with one or two risk factors present run a relatively low risk of SLTS or SD and we consider that full-dose chemotherapy should be used throughout in these individuals. © 1992.

Original publication




Journal article


European Journal of Cancer

Publication Date





81 - 86