Stage III Cervical Cancer
The size of the primary tumor is an important prognostic factor and should be carefully evaluated in choosing optimal therapy. Patterns-of-care studies in stage IIIA/IIIB patients indicate that survival is dependent on the extent of the disease, with unilateral pelvic wall involvement predicting a better outcome than bilateral involvement, which in turn predicts a better outcome than involvement of the lower third of the vaginal wall. These studies also reveal a progressive increase in local control and survival paralleling a progressive increase in paracentral (point A) dose and use of intracavitary treatment. The highest rate of central control was seen with paracentral (point A) doses of more than 85 Gy.
Patients who are surgically staged as part of a clinical trial and are found to have small volume para-aortic nodal disease and controllable pelvic disease may be cured with external-beam pelvic and para-aortic radiation therapy. If postoperative external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is planned following surgery, extraperitoneal lymph node sampling is associated with fewer radiation-induced complications than a transperitoneal approach. The resection of macroscopically involved pelvic nodes may improve rates of local control with postoperative radiation therapy. Treatment of patients with unresected periaortic nodes with extended-field radiation therapy leads to long-term disease control in those patients with low volume (<2 cm) nodal disease below L3. Patients who underwent extraperitoneal lymph node sampling had fewer bowel complications than those who had transperitoneal lymph node sampling.
Five randomized, phase III trials have shown an overall survival advantage for cisplatin-based therapy given concurrently with radiation therapy,[7-13] while one trial examining this regimen demonstrated no benefit. The patient populations in these studies included women with Féderation Internationale de Gynécologie et d’Obstétrique (FIGO) stages IB2 to IVA cervical cancer treated with primary radiation therapy and women with FIGO stages I to IIA disease who, at the time of primary surgery, were found to have poor prognostic factors, which included the following:
- Metastatic disease in pelvic lymph nodes.
- Parametrial disease.
- Positive surgical margins.
Although the positive trials vary somewhat in terms of stage of disease, dose of radiation, and schedule of cisplatin and radiation, the trials demonstrate significant survival benefit for this combined approach. The risk of death from cervical cancer was decreased by 30% to 50% with the use of concurrent chemoradiation therapy. Based on these results, strong consideration should be given to the incorporation of concurrent cisplatin-based chemotherapy with radiation therapy in women who require radiation therapy for treatment of cervical cancer.[7-15]
In an attempt to improve on standard chemoradiation, a phase III randomized trial compared concurrent gemcitabine plus cisplatin and radiation therapy followed by adjuvant gemcitabine and cisplatin (experimental arm) with concurrent cisplatin plus radiation (standard chemoradiation) in patients with stage IIB to IVA cervical cancer.[Level of evidence: 1iiA] A total of 515 patients from 9 countries were enrolled. The schedule for the experimental arm was cisplatin (40 mg/m2) and gemcitabine (125 mg/m2) weekly for 6 weeks with concurrent external-beam radiation (50.4 Gy in 28 fractions) followed by brachytherapy (30–35 Gy in 96 hours) and then two adjuvant 21-day cycles of cisplatin (50 mg/m2) on day 1 plus gemcitabine (1,000 mg/m2) on days 1 and 8. The standard arm was cisplatin (40 mg/m2) weekly for 6 weeks with concurrent external-beam radiation and brachytherapy as described for the experimental arm.
The primary endpoint was PFS at 3 years; however, the study found improvement in the experimental arm for PFS at 3 years (74.4% [95% CI, 68%–79.8%]) vs. 65.0% [95% CI, 58.5%–70.7%]; overall PFS [HR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.49– 0.95]; and OS [HR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.49–0.95]). Patients in the experimental arm had increased hematologic and nonhematologic grade 3 and 4 toxic effects, and two deaths in the experimental arm were possibly related to treatment. A subgroup analysis showed an increased benefit in patients with higher stage of disease (stage III–IVA vs. stage IIB), suggesting that the increased toxic effects of the experimental protocol may be justified for these patients. Additional investigation is needed to determine which aspect of the experimental arm led to improved survival (i.e., the addition of the weekly gemcitabine, the adjuvant chemotherapy, or both) and quality of life during and after treatment, which was omitted from the protocol.
Standard treatment options:
- Radiation therapy plus chemotherapy. Intracavitary radiation and EBRT to the pelvis combined with cisplatin or cisplatin/fluorouracil.[7-12,18]
Although low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, typically with cesium Cs 137, has been the traditional approach, the use of high-dose rate (HDR) therapy, typically with iridium Ir 192, is rapidly increasing. HDR brachytherapy provides the advantages of eliminating radiation exposure to medical personnel, a shorter treatment time, patient convenience, and outpatient management. In three randomized trials, HDR brachytherapy was comparable with LDR brachytherapy in terms of local-regional control and complication rates.[19-21][Level of evidence: 1iiDii] The American Brachytherapy Society has published guidelines for the use of LDR and HDR brachytherapy as a component of cervical cancer treatment.[22,23]Current Clinical Trials
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage III cervical cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.References
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- Dueñas-González A, Zarbá JJ, Patel F, et al.: Phase III, open-label, randomized study comparing concurrent gemcitabine plus cisplatin and radiation followed by adjuvant gemcitabine and cisplatin versus concurrent cisplatin and radiation in patients with stage IIB to IVA carcinoma of the cervix. J Clin Oncol 29 (13): 1678-85, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
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