Purpose: This review summarizes the published data on the use of high-dose chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell rescue (HSCR) in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS).
Patients and methods: Three hundred eighty-nine patients were identified from 22 articles selected by computer generated searching of MEDLINE (1979-present). One hundred seventy-seven patients had stage 4 disease and were treated during first complete remission (CRI). The remaining patients were treated during CR1/first partial remission (PR1) (110 patients), CR2/PR2 (53 patients), CR2 (12 patients), CR3 (1 patient), or treated with disease (36 patients).
Results: Patients treated during CR1 or CR1/PR1 had event-free survival (EFS) rates ranging from 24% to 29% at 3 to 6 years from diagnosis and overall survival (OS) rates ranging from 20% to 40% at 2 to 6 years after diagnosis according to data provided as Kaplan-Meier estimates. Studies without Kaplan-Meier estimates (n = 32) indicate that 12 patients (38%) with stage IV RMS treated during CR1 or CR1/PR1 were surviving 7 to 60 months from diagnosis, similar to patients with stage IV RMS treated on Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Studies II or III. Patients treated during CR2, CR3, or with evidence of disease had a worse outcome with an estimated 3 years OS of 12% (n = 51). Studies without Kaplan-Meier estimates (n = 27) indicate that four patients (15%) treated during CR2, CR3, or with disease were surviving 17 to 33 months after transplant.
Conclusions: Based on these data, there does not appear to be a significant advantage to undergoing high-dose chemotherapy with HSCR for patients with relapsed or refractory high-risk RMS. Clearly, there is a need for incorporating new treatment strategies for patients with high-risk RMS.