Purpose: To review the importance of prognostic factors in developing new protocols for children with rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS).
Patients and methods: Four studies conducted by the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study (IRS) Group from 1972 through 1991.
Results: Favorable prognostic factors are: (1) undetectable distant metastases at diagnosis; (2) primary sites in the orbit and nonparameningeal head/neck and genitourinary nonbladder/prostate regions; (3) grossly complete surgical removal of localized tumor at the time of diagnosis; (4) embryonal/botryoid histology; (5) tumor size < or = 5 cm; and (6) age younger than 10 years at diagnosis. The IRS-V protocols are risk-based and refine therapy by reducing exposure to cyclophosphamide and radiation therapy (XRT) in patients at low risk while adding new, active agents such as topotecan or irinotecan to the standard therapy of vincristine, actinomycin D, and cyclophosphamide (VAC) plus XRT for patients with unfavorable histology or advanced disease. Collection of biologic specimens from patients with newly diagnosed disease continues to identify other factors that may distinguish patients with favorable features from those who need more intensive therapy. A new protocol that takes into account their previous treatment is needed for patients with recurrent disease. This program (being planned) does not include bone marrow/stem cell reconstitution because this strategy has thus far failed to improve survival rates of patients with metastases at diagnosis.
Conclusion: Better understanding of biologic differences and new, active agents are needed to improve outcome of patients with unfavorable features at presentation.