Thalidomide and lenalidomide for recurrent ovarian cancer: A systematic review of the literature

Oncol Lett. 2017 Sep;14(3):3327-3336. doi: 10.3892/ol.2017.6578. Epub 2017 Jul 15.


The present review aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of thalidomide and lenalidomide, two immunomodulatory drugs with anti-angiogenic properties, in women with recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. A systematic review of the literature was conducted whereby Medline and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched using terms associated with thalidomide, lenalidomide, and recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer. Published English language case reports, trials and studies that described the safety and efficacy of thalidomide or lenalidomide alone, or in combination with other drugs were reviewed. A total of 16 clinical studies involving 394 patients treated with thalidomide (n=188), lenalidomide (n=77) and 129 controls were identified, including five case reports (n=6), three case series (n=45), two phase I trials (n=27), four phase II trials (n=109), and two randomized phase III trials (n=207). In a pooled analysis of thalidomide investigated as a single drug, the overall clinical benefit rate was 43% (43/99) with a mean time to progression of 5.6 months. The response rate (complete response + partial response) was 25%. In a phase III trial, the combination of thalidomide and topotecan significantly increased the overall response rate compared with topotecan alone [14/30 (47%) vs. 8/39 (21%)]. In another phase III trial involving women with asymptomatic biochemical recurrence, compared with tamoxifen, thalidomide was not more effective. Lenalidomide was investigated in three phase I trials and in one phase II trial with an overall clinical benefit rate of 52% (34/65), and a mean time to progression of 4.6 months. The response rate (complete response + partial response) was 6%. Systemic toxicity of both drugs was noted in >77% of patients with pneumonitis/pneumonia, fatigue, neuropathy and venous thromboembolism reported as the most common side effects. Thalidomide and lenalidomide are moderately active in recurrent ovarian cancer. Thalidomide possesses synergistic effects with topotecan. The toxicity of both drugs is considerable and there is a greater amount of data available for thalidomide compared to lenalidomide.

Keywords: anti-angiogenesis; efficacy; lenalidomide; ovarian cancer; recurrence; safety; thalidomide; therapy response.