Background: Chemotherapy has a limited impact on adenocarcinoma of the stomach. Although biochemical modulation of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) by leucovorin (LV) and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) has improved the outcomes of patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma compared with 5-FU alone, this approach has not been extensively evaluated in the treatment of advanced gastric carcinoma.
Methods: Twenty-seven patients with bidimensionally measurable, metastatic gastric carcinoma and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1 received the combination of IFN-alpha (5 million U/m2 administered subcutaneously daily on Days 1-7), LV (500 mg/m2 administered intravenously over 30 minutes immediately after IFN-alpha on Days 2-6), and 5-FU (370 mg/m2 given as an intravenous bolus 60 minutes after LV on Days 2-6), with treatment repeated every 4 weeks. Oral cryotherapy was administered routinely before each dose of 5-FU to reduce the incidence of severe stomatitis.
Results: The median age of the patients was 58 years (range, 20-76), and 22 patients had residual, unresectable primary lesions. The median number of cycles received was 3 (range, 1-11). Of 24 patients who received at least 2 cycles of treatment, 15 (62.5%) did not require dose reduction for toxicity during the initial 2 cycles. The predominant toxicities were gastrointestinal: diarrhea and stomatitis of Grade 3-4 occurred in 28.6% and 35.7% of patients, respectively. Other severe (Grade 3-4) toxicities were granulocytopenia (which occurred in 21.4% of patients) and fatigue (in 10.7%). Fever and flu-like symptoms were common but usually mild. Of 24 patients who were evaluable for response, 3 had partial responses (PR) of 16, 23, and 33 weeks' duration, respectively, for a response rate of 12.5% (95% confidence interval = 2.7-32.4%). Two additional patients had reductions in tumor size sufficient for PR, but scans to document the minimum required response duration of 4 weeks were not obtained before progressive disease occurred. The median progression-free and overall survivals were 2.5 and 7.8 months, respectively.
Conclusions: Although this regimen can be administered safely with appropriate supportive care to patients with good performance status, it has limited therapeutic activity in patients with advanced gastric carcinoma.