Purpose: A randomized phase III trial was conducted to determine whether combination therapy with 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-CRA) plus interferon alfa-2a (IFNalpha2a) is superior to IFNalpha2a alone in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Patients and methods: Two hundred eighty-four patients were randomized to treatment with IFNalpha2a plus 13-CRA or treatment with IFNalpha2a alone. IFNalpha2a was given daily subcutaneously, starting at a dose of 3 million units (MU). The dose was escalated every 7 days from 3 to 9 MU (by increments of 3 MU), unless >/= grade 2 toxicity occurred, in which case dose escalation was stopped. Patients randomized to combination therapy were given oral 13-CRA 1 mg/kg/d plus IFNalpha2a. Quality of life (QOL) was assessed.
Results: Complete or partial responses were achieved by 12% of patients treated with IFNalpha2a plus 13-CRA and 6% of patients treated with IFNalpha2a (P =.14). Median duration of response (complete and partial combined) in the group treated with the combination was 33 months (range, 9 to 50 months), versus 22 months (range, 5 to 38 months) for the second group (P =.03). Nineteen percent of patients treated with IFNalpha2a plus 13-CRA were progression-free at 24 months, compared with 10% of patients treated with IFNalpha2a alone (P =.05). Median survival time for all patients was 15 months, with no difference in survival between the two treatment arms (P =.26). QOL decreased during the first 8 weeks of treatment, and a partial recovery followed. Lower scores were associated with the combination therapy.
Conclusion: Response proportion and survival did not improve significantly with the addition of 13-CRA to IFNalpha2a therapy in patients with advanced RCC. 13-CRA may lengthen response to IFNalpha2a therapy in patients with IFNalpha2a-sensitive tumors. Treatment, particularly the combination therapy, was associated with a decrease in QOL.