Purpose: In this report we present the natural history, prognostic factors, and therapeutic implications of stage IV epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).
Patients and methods: We reviewed 192 patients with stage IV EOC as defined in 1985 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
Results: The site of stage IV-defining disease was cytologically positive pleural effusion in 63 patients, liver in 50 patients, lymph nodes in 26 patients, lung in six patients, other sites in 15 patients, and disease at multiple stage IV-defining metastatic sites in 32 patients. Surgery was performed before chemotherapy in 169 patients; 25 patients (14.8%) were left with only microscopic residual disease or less than 2 cm of macroscopic residual disease. The overall response rate to chemotherapy was 56%; the complete response rate was 18%. The median progression-free survival was 7.1 months, and the median overall survival was 13.4 months. The median overall survival of patients with positive pleural effusions only was 13.4 months as compared with 10.5 months for patients with visceral disease only, but this difference was not statistically significant. The 5-year survival rate was 7.6%, with only six patients surviving more than 5 years. Univariate and multivariate analysis showed that two parameters were associated with a shorter survival time: visceral involvement (lung or liver) and diagnosis before 1984.
Conclusion: Patients with stage IV EOC initially respond to chemotherapy as often as those with less advanced disease, but the long-term prognosis is very poor. The size of residual disease is not a prognostic factor in this group of patients, and, therefore, the role of debulking surgery in these patients needs to be reconsidered.