Although patients with recurrent or progressive rhabdomyosarcoma sometimes achieve complete remission with secondary therapy, the long-term prognosis is usually poor.[1,2] The prognosis is most favorable (50% to 70% 5-year survival rates) for children who initially present with stage I or Group I disease and embryonal histology and who have smaller tumors or present with a local or regional recurrence.[1,2,3] The small number of children with botryoid histology who relapse have a similarly favorable prognosis. Most other children who relapse have an extremely poor prognosis. A retrospective review of rhabdomyosarcoma patients from German soft tissue sarcoma trials identified time to recurrence as an important independent prognostic factor. Shorter time to recurrence was associated with higher risk of mortality from recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma.[Level of evidence: 3iiB] European investigators performed a retrospective review of patients with rhabdomyosarcoma enrolled on cooperative group trials who experienced recurrence. They identified metastatic (as opposed to local) recurrence, prior radiation therapy, initial tumor size (>5 cm), and time to relapse (<18 months) as unfavorable prognostic features for survival post recurrence.
The selection of further treatment depends on many factors, including the site(s) of recurrence, previous treatment, and individual patient considerations. Treatment for local or regional recurrence may include wide local excision or aggressive surgical removal of tumor, particularly in the absence of widespread bony metastases. Some survivors have also been reported after surgical removal of only one or a few metastases in the lung. RT should be considered for patients who have not already received RT in the area of recurrence, or rarely for those who have received RT but for whom surgical excision is not possible. Previously unused, active, single agents or combinations of drugs may also enhance the likelihood of disease control.
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Irinotecan with or without vincristine.[11,12,13,14] Results of a prospective randomized trial showed no difference between irinotecan (20 mg/m2 /d) daily x 5 days for 4 weeks per treatment cycle and irinotecan (50 mg/m2 /d) daily x 5 days for 2 weeks per treatment cycle in relapsed rhabdomyosarcoma and recommended the shorter regimen for further investigation.[Level of evidence: 1iiDiv]
Treatment options under clinical evaluation for recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma:
On the basis of historical relapse data from the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group, the Children's Oncology Group is analyzing a risk-based approach to salvage treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma patients experiencing a first relapse or progressive disease. Relapsed patients with a favorable prognosis received doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide alternating with ifosfamide/etoposide. For patients with a poor prognosis and measurable disease, a randomized study of two administration schedules of irinotecan (five daily doses for 1 week vs. five daily doses for 2 weeks) in combination with vincristine preceded treatment with doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide alternating with ifosfamide/etoposide. Poor-prognosis patients without measurable disease received doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide with the addition of an investigational agent, tirapazamine, alternating with ifosfamide/etoposide.
Intensive chemotherapy followed by autologous bone marrow transplantation. Very intensive chemotherapy followed by autologous bone marrow reinfusion is also under investigation for patients with recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma. A review of the published data did not determine a significant benefit for patients who underwent this salvage treatment approach.[16,17]