The aim was to investigate the efficacy of neoadjuvant docetaxel-cisplatin and identify prognostic factors for outcome in locally advanced stage IIIA (pN2 by mediastinoscopy) non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. In all, 75 patients (from 90 enrolled) underwent tumour resection after three 3-week cycles of docetaxel 85 mg m-2 (day 1) plus cisplatin 40 or 50 mg m-2 (days 1 and 2). Therapy was well tolerated (overall grade 3 toxicity occurred in 48% patients; no grade 4 nonhaematological toxicity was reported), with no observed late toxicities. Median overall survival (OS) and event-free survival (EFS) times were 35 and 15 months, respectively, in the 75 patients who underwent surgery; corresponding figures for all 90 patients enrolled were 28 and 12 months. At 3 years after initiating trial therapy, 27 out of 75 patients (36%) were alive and tumour free. At 5-year follow-up, 60 and 65% of patients had local relapse and distant metastases, respectively. The most common sites of distant metastases were the lung (24%) and brain (17%). Factors associated with OS, EFS and risk of local relapse and distant metastases were complete tumour resection and chemotherapy activity (clinical response, pathologic response, mediastinal downstaging). Neoadjuvant docetaxel-cisplatin was effective and tolerable in stage IIIA pN2 NSCLC, with chemotherapy contributing significantly to outcomes.