Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)
For patients with localized recurrences (pelvis and periaortic lymph nodes) or distant metastases in selected sites, radiation therapy may be an effective palliative therapy. In rare instances, pelvic radiation therapy may be curative in pure vaginal recurrence when no prior radiation therapy has been used. Patients positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors respond best to progestin therapy. Among 115 patients with advanced endometrial cancer who were treated with progestins, 75% (42 of 56 patients) of those with detectable progesterone receptors in their tumors before treatment responded, compared to only 7% without detectable progesterone receptors (4 of 59 patients). A receptor-poor status may predict not only poor response to progestins but also a better response to cytotoxic chemotherapy. Evidence suggests that tamoxifen (20 mg twice a day) will give a response rate of 20% in those who do not respond to standard progesterone therapy.
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Several randomized trials by the Gynecologic Oncology Group have utilized the known antitumor activity of doxorubicin. The addition of cisplatin to doxorubicin increased response rates and progression-free survival (PFS) over doxorubicin alone but without an effect on overall survival (OS). However, in a trial conducted in a subset of patients with stage III or IV disease with residual tumors smaller than 2 cm and no parenchymal organ involvement, the use of the combination of cisplatin and doxorubicin resulted in improved OS compared to whole-abdominal radiation therapy (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.68; 95% confidence interval limits, 0.52-0.89; P = .02; 5-year survival rate of 55% vs. 42%).[Level of evidence: 1iiA] In a subsequent trial, paclitaxel with doxorubicin had a similar outcome to cisplatin with doxorubicin.[6,7] The three-drug regimen (doxorubicin, cisplatin, and paclitaxel) with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, however, was significantly superior to cisplatin plus doxorubicin: response rates were 57% versus 34%, PFS was 8.3 months versus 5.3 months, and OS was 15.3 months versus 12.3 months, respectively. The superior regimen was associated with a 12% grade 3 and a 27% grade 2 peripheral neuropathy.[6,7][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv]
Clinical trials are appropriate for patients whose disease recurs with distant metastases and who are unresponsive to hormonal therapy. Doxorubicin is the most active anticancer agent employed, with useful but temporary responses obtained in as many as 33% of patients with metastatic disease. Paclitaxel also has significant activity.