Topotecan is an active second line chemotherapeutic drug, used to treat patients with relapsed ovarian carcinoma

It appears to have a similar level of effectiveness as paclitaxel and pegylated liposomal doxorubicin, though with different patterns of side effects. Larger, well-designed randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are required to define an optimal regime.

Authors' conclusions: 

Topotecan appears to have a similar level of effectiveness as paclitaxel and PLD, though with different patterns of side effects. Larger, well-designed RCTs are required in order to define an optimal regime.

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Chemotherapeutic agents such as topotecan can be used to treat ovarian cancer. The effects of using topotecan as a therapeutic agent have not been previously been systematically reviewed.


To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of topotecan for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), (Issue 4, 2006); Cochrane Gynaecological Cancer Review Group (CGCRG) Specialised Register (Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2006); MEDLINE (January 1990 to 27 July 2006); EMBASE (January 1990 to 27 July 2006); The European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) database (to 1 August 2006); CBM (Chinese Biomedical Database) (January 1990 to 27 July 2006).

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) which randomized patients with ovarian cancer to single or combined use of topotecan versus interventions without topotecan, or different remedies of topotecan.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently extracted and analysed data.

Main results: 

Six studies including 1323 participants were eligible for this review (Gordon 2004a; Gore 2001a; Gore 2002; Hoskins 1998; Huinink 2004; Placido 2004) All studies, as reported, were identified as being of poor methodological quality. Topotecan had comparable effectiveness to prolong progression-free survival (PFS) compared with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD), (16.1 weeks versus 17.0 weeks; p = 0.095). Overall survival (OS) time was similar in participants using PLD compared with topotecan (56.7 weeks versus 60 weeks; p = 0.341). Topotecan was more hematologically toxic compared with paclitaxel or PLD, relative risks (RRs) of hematological events: ranged from 1.03 to 14.46 and 1.73 to 27.12 respectively. A 21-day cycle of topotecan was more toxic than a 42-day cycle (RRs of hematological and non-hematological events ranged from 1.03 to 8). Intravenous and oral topotecan had comparable toxicity. Topotecan delayed progression more effectively compared with paclitaxel (23.1 weeks versus 14 weeks, p = 0.0021). Participants were more likely to respond to topotecan on a 21-day cycle as opposed to a 42-day cycle (RR 7.23, 95% CI 0.94 to 55.36). Small tumor diameter, sensitivity to platinum-based chemotherapy was associated with better prognosis. Small sample size, methodological flaws and poor reporting of the included trials made measurement bias of the trials difficult to assess.

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