Abstract This trial of the German High-Grade Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Study Group compares the use of high-dose therapy (HDT) as part of primary treatment with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP) plus etoposide followed by involved-field (IF) radiotherapy in a randomized, multicenter, phase III study.Three hundred twelve patients with “aggressive” non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma aged <or= 60 years with elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase levels were included from 1990 to 1997. Patients with at least a minor response after two cycles of CHOEP (CHOP + etoposide 3 x 100 mg/m(2)) were to receive three further cycles of CHOEP followed by IF radiotherapy (arm A) or one further cycle of CHOEP followed by autologous stem-cell transplantation and IF radiotherapy (arm B).Among 158 patients randomized to arm B, 103 (65%) received HDT. The complete remission rate at the end of treatment was 62.9% in arm A and 69.9% in arm B. With a median observation time of 45.5 months, overall survival for all 312 patients was 63% after 3 years (63% for arm A, 62% for arm B; P =.68). Event-free survival was 49% for arm A versus 59% for arm B (P =.22). Relapse in arm B was associated with a significantly worse survival rate than relapse in arm A (P <.05). Relapse after HDT occurred early (median interval, 3 months). Six patients developed secondary neoplasia, three in arm A and three in arm B.Results of the randomized trial comparing CHOP-like chemotherapy with early HDT do not support the use of HDT with carmustine, etoposide, cytarabine, and melphalan following shortened standard chemotherapy.