Abstract Background: High dose Epirubicin (HD-EPI) (>90 mg/m 2) and Vinorelbine (VNR) demonstrated antitumor activity as single agent (about 20%) in the treatment of advanced NSCLC. This trial compares these two agents combined with cisplatin (CP). Patients and methods: From August 1992 to February 1996, 228 patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC were randomized to receive either EPI 120 mg/m 2 as i.v. bolus plus Cisplatin (CP) 60 mg/m 2 on day 1 (regimen A) or VNR 25 mg/m 2 as i.v. bolus on day 1 and 8 plus CP 60 mg/m 2 on day 1 (regimen B). Both treatments were recycled every 21 days up to a maximum cumulative dose of EPI of 840 mg/m 2 or 12 cycles. Eligible patients were 212 and 198 patients were evaluable for objective response (95 in arm A and 103 in arm B). The main characteristics of eligible patients were: male/female 179/33; median age 61 (42–72); median Karnofsky PS 80 (70–100); stage IIIA 12%, stage IIIB 40%, stage IV 41%, recurrence 7%; histotype: epidermoid 48%, adenoca 36%, others 16%. Results: The following response rates were observed in regimens A and B, respectively; CR, 1 and 2%, PR, 32 and 25% ( P=0.4567). Median CR+PR duration was 9 and 8 months, respectively. Median survival was 10.5 and 9.6 months, respectively. Grade III–IV leucopenia occurred in 38 and 21% in arm A and arm B, respectively ( P=0.01), thrombocytopenia in 6 and 0% ( P=0.02), anemia in 8 and 7% (n.s.). Non-hematological toxicity was moderate and the only difference between the treatments was alopecia (88 vs. 33% in arm A and B, respectively). Supraventricular arrhythmia occurred in three patients on regimen A; a>15% LVEF absolute decrease was observed in 9 (22.5%) and three (14%) patients on arm A and arm B, respectively (n.s.). No congestive heart failure was observed. Conclusion: HD−EPI+CP and VNR+CP are both active combinations in advanced NSCLC with a similar response rate, response duration and survival but regimen A was significantly more toxic (myelosuppression and alopecia).