Role of etoposide-based chemotherapy in the treatment of patients with refractory or relapsing germ cell tumors
Forty-nine patients with metastatic germ cell tumors were treated with etoposide 100 mg/m2 and cisplatin 20 mg/m2 intravenously each day for five days as "salvage" chemotherapy. Forty-seven patients had received standard induction regimens for metastatic germ cell tumors before receiving etoposide and cisplatin. Four patients were treated after surgical resection of a single site of relapse (Group I). Forty-five patients had measurable or evaluable disease at the time of treatment. In 17 patients with evaluable disease who had either achieved a prior complete remission or received no prior cisplatin (Group II), eight (47 percent) complete and four (24 percent) partial remission were observed. In 28 patients who had never achieved a prior complete remission (Group III), no complete and five (18 percent) partial responses were observed. Seven of 21 patients in Groups I and II and none of 28 patients in Group III remain alive and free of disease. Assuming prior treatment with cisplatin-based chemotherapy, these data and a review of the published experience with similar salvage regimens for patients with relapsing or refractory germ cell tumors suggest that combination chemotherapy based on etoposide and cisplatin is effective primarily in those patients who achieved a prior complete remission. Such therapy is ineffective in the absence of a prior complete remission probably because the patients have tumors that are largely resistant to cisplatin. Observed responses are probably due to etoposide alone. Investigational therapies should be pursued in those patients whose disease is refractory to current induction regimens.