First-line salvage treatment options for germ cell tumor patients failing stage-adapted primary treatment : A comprehensive review compiled by the German Testicular Cancer Study Group

World J Urol. 2022 Dec;40(12):2853-2861. doi: 10.1007/s00345-022-03959-8. Epub 2022 Feb 28.


Purpose: In this review, we summarize and discuss contemporary treatment standards and possible selection criteria for decision making after failure of adjuvant or first-line cisplatin-based chemotherapy for primarily localized or metastatic germ cell tumors.

Methods: This work is based on a systematic literature search conducted for the elaboration of the first German clinical practice guideline to identify prospective clinical trials and retrospective comparative studies published between Jan 2010 and Feb 2021. Study end points of interest were progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS), relapse rate (RR), and/or safety.

Results: Relapses of clinical stage I (CS I) patients irrespective of prior adjuvant treatment after orchiectomy are treated stage adapted in accordance for primary metastatic patients. Surgical approaches for sole retroperitoneal relapses are investigated in ongoing clinical trials. The appropriate salvage chemotherapy for metastatic patients progressing or relapsing after first-line cisplatin-based chemotherapy is still a matter of controversy. Conventional cisplatin-based chemotherapy is the international guideline-endorsed standard of care, but based on retrospective data high-dose chemotherapy and subsequent autologous stem cell transplantation may offer a 10-15% survival benefit for all patients. Secondary complete surgical resection of all visible residual masses irrespective of size is paramount for treatment success.

Conclusions: Patients relapsing after definite treatment of locoregional disease are to be treated by stage-adapted first-line standard therapy for metastatic disease. Patients with primary advanced/metastatic disease failing one line of cisplatin-based combination chemotherapy should be referred to GCT expert centers. Dose intensity is a matter of ongoing debate, but sequential high-dose chemotherapy seems to improve patients' survival.

Keywords: Germ cell tumor; High-dose chemotherapy; Relapse; Salvage surgery; Salvage treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal* / drug therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Testicular Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Transplantation, Autologous


  • Cisplatin

Supplementary concepts

  • Testicular Germ Cell Tumor