We assessed the outcome in 252 patients with small-cell lung cancer 5 to 11 years after treatment with combination chemotherapy, with or without chest and cranial irradiation, in National Cancer Institute therapeutic trials from 1973 through 1978. Twenty-eight patients (11%) survived free of cancer for 30 months or more. Fourteen patients remain alive without evidence of cancer beyond 5 years (range, 6.4 to 11.3 years), and 7 patients have returned to a lifestyle similar to that before diagnosis. The other 14 patients who were cancer-free at 30 months have developed cancer or died; 6 patients had a relapse, 4 developed or died from non-small-cell lung cancer, and 4 died of unrelated causes. A few patients with small-cell lung cancer (5.6%) may be cured. Thirty-month, cancer-free survival is insufficient to show a cure. Although late toxicities are troublesome, they do not outweigh the benefits of prolonged survival and potential for cure with modern aggressive therapy in small-cell lung cancer.