Chemotherapy of advanced epithelial cancer--a critical review

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Biomed Pharmacother. 1992;46(10):439-52.

Chemotherapy of advanced epithelial cancer--a critical review.
Abel U.

Tumorzentrum Heidelburg/Mannheim, Germany.

This article is a short version of a report which presents a comprehensive analysis of clinical trials and publications examining the value of cytotoxic chemotherapy in the treatment of advanced epithelial cancer. As a result of the analysis and the comments received from hundreds of oncologists in reply to a request for information, the following facts can be noted. Apart from lung cancer, in particular small-cell lung cancer, there is no direct evidence that chemotherapy prolongs survival in patients with advanced carcinoma. Except for ovarian cancer, available indirect evidence rather supports the absence of a positive effect. In treatment of lung cancer and ovarian cancer, the therapeutical benefit is at best rather small, and a less aggressive treatment seems to be at least as effective as the usual one. It is possible that certain sub-groups of patients benefit from the treatment, yet so far the available results do not allow a sufficiently precise definition of these groups. Many oncologists take it for granted that response to therapy prolongs survival, an opinion which is based on a fallacy and which is not supported by clinical studies. To date, it is unclear whether the treated patients, as a whole, benefit from chemotherapy as to their quality of life. For most cancer sites, urgently required types of studies such as randomized de-escalations of dose or comparisons of immediate versus deferred chemotherapy are still lacking. With few exceptions, there is no good scientific basis for the application of chemotherapy in symptom-free patients with advanced epithelial malignancy.