Background: Radiotherapy is the standard care in elderly patients with malignant astrocytoma and the role of primary chemotherapy is poorly defined. We did a randomised trial to compare the efficacy and safety of dose-dense temozolomide alone versus radiotherapy alone in elderly patients with anaplastic astrocytoma or glioblastoma.
Methods: Between May 15, 2005, and Nov 2, 2009, we enrolled patients with confirmed anaplastic astrocytoma or glioblastoma, age older than 65 years, and a Karnofsky performance score of 60 or higher. Patients were randomly assigned 100 mg/m(2) temozolomide, given on days 1-7 of 1 week on, 1 week off cycles, or radiotherapy of 60·0 Gy, administered over 6-7 weeks in 30 fractions of 1·8-2·0 Gy. The primary endpoint was overall survival. We assessed non-inferiority with a 25% margin, analysed for all patients who received at least one dose of assigned treatment. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01502241.
Findings: Of 584 patients screened, we enrolled 412. 373 patients (195 randomly allocated to the temozolomide group and 178 to the radiotherapy group) received at least one dose of treatment and were included in efficacy analyses. Median overall survival was 8·6 months (95% CI 7·3-10·2) in the temozolomide group versus 9·6 months (8·2-10·8) in the radiotherapy group (hazard ratio [HR] 1·09, 95% CI 0·84-1·42, p(non-inferiority)=0·033). Median event-free survival (EFS) did not differ significantly between the temozolomide and radiotherapy groups (3·3 months [95% CI 3·2-4·1] vs 4·7 [4·2-5·2]; HR 1·15, 95% CI 0·92-1·43, p(non-inferiority)=0·043). Tumour MGMT promoter methylation was seen in 73 (35%) of 209 patients tested. MGMT promoter methylation was associated with longer overall survival than was unmethylated status (11·9 months [95% CI 9·0 to not reached] vs 8·2 months [7·0-10·0]; HR 0·62, 95% CI 0·42-0·91, p=0·014). EFS was longer in patients with MGMT promoter methylation who received temozolomide than in those who underwent radiotherapy (8·4 months [95e% CI 5·5-11·7] vs 4·6 [4·2-5·0]), whereas the opposite was true for patients with no methylation of the MGMT promoter (3·3 months [3·0-3·5] vs 4·6 months [3·7-6·3]). The most frequent grade 3-4 intervention-related adverse events were neutropenia (16 patients in the temozolomide group vs two in the radiotherapy group), lymphocytopenia (46 vs one), thrombocytopenia (14 vs four), raised liver-enzyme concentrations (30 vs 16), infections (35 vs 23), and thromboembolic events (24 vs eight).
Interpretation: Temozolomide alone is non-inferior to radiotherapy alone in the treatment of elderly patients with malignant astrocytoma. MGMT promoter methylation seems to be a useful biomarker for outcomes by treatment and could aid decision-making.
Funding: Merck Sharp & Dohme.
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