Objective: To establishing whether neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) followed by interval debulking surgery (IDS) is superior primary debulking surgery (PDS) in terms of clinical outcome as well as peri-operative morbidity in advanced epithelial ovarian cancer (AEOC) endowed with high tumour load (HTL).
Material and methods: This is a single-Institution, superiority, randomised phase III trial enrolling supposed AEOC women. Patients considered pre-operatively eligible were triaged to staging laparoscopy to assess the predictive index (PI) of tumour load. All AEOC women with PI≥8 or≤12 (considered as HTL) were included. They were randomly assigned (1:1 ratio) to undergo either PDS followed by systemic adjuvant chemotherapy (arm A, standard), or NACT followed by IDS (NACT/IDS) (arm B, experimental). Co-primary outcome measures were postoperative complications (graded according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center surgical secondary events grading system) and progression free survival (PFS); secondary outcomes were overall survival, and quality of life (QoL). QoL was assessed using the EORTC QoL questionnaires. A sample size of 110 patients was required for the analysis of the first co-primary end-point (major peri-operative morbidity) whereas recruitment is still on-going to achieve the statistical power on PFS.
Results: Between October 2011 and November 2014, we registered 280 AEOC. Of the 110 eligible women, 55 were assigned to arm A and 55 to arm B. Despite different extension of surgery, rates of complete residual disease (residual tumour=0 cm) were superimposable between the groups (45.5% versus 57.7%; p=0.206). Twenty-nine patients (52.7%) in arm A experienced early grade III-IV complications versus three patients (5.7%) in IDS (p=0.0001). The most common complication was grade III and consisted of symptomatic pleural effusion requiring thoracic drainage (17/55 women (30.9%) in arm A versus 1/52 (1.9%) in arm B, p=0.0001). Three grade IV (5.4%) (i.e., two re-operations for postoperative haemorrhage and one septic multi-organ failure), and two grade V (3.6%) (two deaths for acute cardiopulmonary failure) early complications were observed in arm A only. Mean QoL scores of several scales/items were shown to ameliorate over time in both arms. Emotional functioning, cognitive functioning, nausea/vomiting, dyspnoea, insomnia and hair loss were statistically and clinically better in NACT/IDS compared to PDS arm.
Conclusions: Perioperative moderate/severe morbidity as well as QoL scores were shown to be more favourable in NACT/IDS arm than PDS in AEOC patients with very HTL. Completion of patient enrolment and analysis of survival data will clarify whether PDS with such a high rate of severe complications is an acceptable treatment in AEOC women with HTL.
Keywords: Advanced ovarian cancer; Cytoreduction; Laparoscopy; Peri-operative complications; Quality of life; Randomised clinical trial.
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