Management of Advanced Germ Cell Cancer in Patients With Unfavorable Prognosis

Author: Kim Margolin MD 1
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  • 1 Departments of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research and Hematology/Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, City of Hope National Medical Center, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, California

Advanced germ cell cancer can be cured in most patients using chemotherapy with or without surgery. A small fraction of patients with nonseminomatous tumors (NSGCT) and an even smaller percentage of seminoma patients are destined to have a less favorable outcome, due to an inadequate response to first-line chemotherapy (failure to achieve remission, finding of residual viable carcinoma at post-chemotherapy surgery, or relapse after achieving a remission). Despite the apparent salvage potential for regimens containing ifosfamide or paclitaxel, no proof exists that such combinations are superior to the standard regimen of four cycles of cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin (PEB) in the front-line therapy of patients with advanced NSGCT. Other modifications of first-line therapy, such as the addition of paclitaxel or the use of escalated doses of cisplatin, also have failed to increase the cure rate. The use of single or tandem cycles of high-dose chemotherapy (HDT with autologous hematopoietic cell transplant [aHCT]) in various settings (for selected patients with poor prognostic features before therapy, patients predicted to have a poor outcome based on the rate of serum tumor marker decline while on therapy, and patients in relapse or failure to achieve adequate response to standard therapy) has been evaluated in many phase II and a limited number of phase III trials, which are summarized in this review. Important questions that remain to be answered include the role of new agents and the use of more sophisticated techniques to understand prognostic and predictive factors in selecting therapy for GCT.

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Correspondence: Kim Margolin, MD, Departments of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research and Hematology/Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, City of Hope National Medical Center, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010. E-mail: kmargolin@coh.org
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