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Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


Role of chemotherapy for advanced disease

Doxorubicin is a mainstay of systemic therapy in the management of locally advanced and metastatic soft tissue sarcoma. Pegylated liposomal encapsulated doxorubicin is a formulation of doxorubicin designed to prolong the half-life of circulating doxorubicin and slow the release of active drug.[39] The changed pharmacokinetics result in less myelosuppression and possibly less cardiotoxic effects, but there is a substantial incidence of hypersensitivity-like reactions and hand-foot syndrome. Its clinical activity relative to unencapsulated doxorubicin is not clear.[39][Level of evidence 3iiiDiv] Other drugs that are thought to have clinical activity as single agents are ifosfamide, epirubicin, gemcitabine, and paclitaxel.[40,41,42,43][Level of Evidence 3iiiDiv] Their clinical activity relative to single-agent doxorubicin is not clear, and they are not known to have superior activity.

There is controversy about the clinical benefit of adding other drugs to doxorubicin as a single agent. A systematic evidence review and meta-analysis conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration summarized the eight randomized trials reported from 1976 to 1995.[44] No additional randomized trials had been reported or were known to be in progress between 1995 and the 2002 literature search. Single-agent doxorubicin had been compared with a variety of doxorubicin-containing combinations that included vincristine, vindesine, cyclophosphamide, streptozotocin, mitomycin-C, cisplatin, and/or ifosfamide. Combination regimens consistently caused more nausea and hematologic toxicity. However, the better response rates associated with combination therapy were marginal and depended on the statistical model used (fixed effects model ORresp = 1.29; 95% CI, 1.03–1.60, P = .03; random effects model ORresp = 1.26; 95% CI, 0.96–1.67, P = .10) There was no statistically significant difference in the 1- (ORmortality = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.73–1.05, P = .14) or 2-year mortality rates (ORmortality = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.67–1.06, P = .13).

These results were very similar even when the analyses were restricted to the four trials that used DTIC and/or ifosfamide as part of the combination regimen with doxorubicin agents that were postulated to have greater activity than the others tested. A subsequent meta-analysis of all three published randomized trials of chemotherapy regimens that contained ifosfamide versus those that did not came to similar conclusions: tumor response rates were better when the regimen included ifosfamide (RRresp = 1.52; 95% CI, 1.11–2.08), but mortality at 1 year was not (RRmortality = 0.98; 95% CI, 0.85–1.13).[45][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv]. Therefore, response rate was a poor surrogate for OS. Quality-of-life outcomes were not reported in any of the above-mentioned randomized trials, but toxicity was worse when agents were added to doxorubicin.


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Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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