Of all patients with gastric cancer 80% to 90% are either diagnosed at an advanced stage when the tumour is inoperable, or develop a recurrence within five years after surgery. Chemotherapy clearly improves survival in comparison to best supportive care only. In addition, combination chemotherapy further improves survival compared to single-agent 5-FU. However, combination chemotherapies have higher rates of adverse effects, and their impact on the patient's quality of life has not been adequately studied. 5-FU/platinum combinations, with or without an anthracycline, as well as irinotecan and docetaxel-containing combinations are reasonable current treatment options.
Chemotherapy significantly improves survival in comparison to best supportive care. In addition, combination chemotherapy improves survival compared to single-agent 5-FU. All patients should be tested for their HER-2 status and trastuzumab should be added to a standard fluoropyrimidine/cisplatin regimen in patients with HER-2 positive tumours. Two and three-drug regimens including 5-FU, cisplatin, with or without an anthracycline, as well as irinotecan or docetaxel-containing regimens are reasonable treatment options for HER-2 negative patients.
Gastric cancer currently ranks second in global cancer mortality. Most patients are either diagnosed at an advanced stage, or develop a relapse after surgery with curative intent. Apart from supportive care and palliative radiation to localized (e.g. bone) metastasis, systemic chemotherapy is the only treatment option available in this situation.
To assess the efficacy of chemotherapy versus best supportive care, combination versus single agent chemotherapy and different combination chemotherapy regimens in advanced gastric cancer.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE and EMBASE up to March 2009, reference lists of studies, and contacted pharmaceutical companies and national and international experts.
Randomised controlled trials on systemic intravenous chemotherapy versus best supportive care, combination versus single agent chemotherapy and different combination chemotherapies in advanced gastric cancer.
Two authors independently extracted data. A third investigator was consulted in case of disagreements. We contacted study authors to obtain missing information.
Thirty five trials, with a total of 5726 patients, have been included in the meta-analysis of overall survival. The comparison of chemotherapy versus best supportive care consistently demonstrated a significant benefit in overall survival in favour of the group receiving chemotherapy (hazard ratios (HR) 0.37; 95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.24 to 0.55, 184 participants). The comparison of combination versus single-agent chemotherapy provides evidence for a survival benefit in favour of combination chemotherapy (HR 0.82; 95% CI 0.74 to 0.90, 1914 participants). The price of this benefit is increased toxicity as a result of combination chemotherapy. When comparing 5-FU/cisplatin-containing combination therapy regimens with versus without anthracyclines (HR 0.77; 95% CI 0.62 to 0.95, 501 participants) and 5-FU/anthracycline-containing combinations with versus without cisplatin (HR 0.82; 95% CI 0.73 to 0.92, 1147 participants) there was a significant survival benefit for regimens including 5-FU, anthracyclines and cisplatin. Both the comparison of irinotecan versus non-irinotecan (HR 0.86; 95% CI 0.73 to 1.02, 639 participants) and docetaxel versus non-docetaxel containing regimens (HR 0.93; 95% CI 0.75 to 1.15, 805 participants) show non-significant overall survival benefits in favour of the irinotecan and docetaxel-containing regimens.