Introduction: Gastric cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Improvement of conventional chemotherapy has been modest in the past decades.
Areas covered: We review recent important studies of metastatic or recurrent gastric cancer. For human epidermal growth factor receptors 2 (HER2) negative cancer, standard treatments are combinations of fluoropyrimidine and platinum with or without epirubicin or docetaxel in first-line therapy. Controversy exists regarding the use of triplet chemotherapies due to their toxicity. For HER2 positive cancer, standard treatments are combinations of fluoropyrimidine and cisplatin with trastuzumab. As second- or third-line treatment, taxanes or irinotecan prolonged survival compared with best supportive care alone, but the extension of overall survival was only 1 - 2 months. A recent study demonstrated that ramucirumab plus paclitaxel improved survival as a second-line therapy.
Expert opinion: Most trials have failed to demonstrate a benefit of targeted agents. It is important to identify predictive biomarkers to enrich an appropriate patient population for targeted agents such as HER2 status for trastuzumab.
Keywords: chemotherapy; gastric cancer; immune checkpoint inhibitor; metastatic; recurrent; targeted therapy.