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The role of chemotherapy in the palliation of patients with advanced stage (IIIB and IV non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains controversial. We have carried out a chemotherapy study emphasising symptom relief, a topic not normally discussed in previous similar studies. A total of 120 patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were treated with a moderate-dose palliative chemotherapy regimen consisting of mitomycin C 8 mg m-2 i.v. on day 1 (alternate courses), vinblastine 6 mg m-2 i.v. on day 1 and cisplatin 50 mg m-2 i.v. on day 1 (MVP), repeating every 21 days for a maximum of six courses. Thirty-eight of 118 assessable patients (32%) achieved an objective response. Patients with locally advanced disease (stage IIIB) had a significantly better response rate (52%) than those with metastatic disease (25%) (P < 0.01). In 76 out of 110 (69%) patients, with tumour-related symptoms including 24 out of 31 patients (78%) with locally advanced disease, symptoms completely disappeared or substantially improved. In only 15 patients (14%) did symptoms progress during treatment. Symptomatic improvement was achieved after one course of chemotherapy in 61% and after two courses in 96% of responding patients. The schedule was well tolerated. Only 19% developed WHO grade 3/4 nausea/vomiting, and only 3% developed significant alopecia. Other toxicities were minimal. MVP is a pragmatic inexpensive chemotherapy regimen that offers useful symptom palliation in patients with advanced NSCLC and merits a 1-2 course therapeutic trial in such patients. The schedule should also be assessed as primary (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy before radical radiotherapy for locally advanced NSCLC in a randomised trial.