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Forty-two patients with unresectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were treated with carboplatin (300, 350 or 400 mg/m2) and 21 days of oral etoposide (50 mg/m2/day). Thirty-three patients were evaluable for response (too early to assess the remaining patients) and 9 patients (27%) achieved a partial remission. Median survival was 29 weeks (range, 4+ to 71+ weeks). The primary toxicity was myelosuppression. Leukocyte and platelet count nadirs occurred between days 22 and 29. In cycle 1, median leukocyte nadir was 2.8 x 10(9)/l and the platelet nadir was 142 x 10(9)/l. Nonhematologic toxicities were modest and included alopecia in all patients, mild nausea, mild to moderate diarrhea, and an occasional increase in serum creatinine. Carboplatin plus oral etoposide is a tolerable outpatient regimen with modest activity against unresectable NSCLC.