Conference Coverage

Gastrectomy does not alter benefit of new oral chemo in gastric cancer



Efficacy and safety of a novel oral chemotherapy in patients with heavily pretreated metastatic gastric cancer are largely unaffected by prior gastrectomy, suggests a preplanned subgroup analysis of the global phase 3 randomized controlled TAGS trial. Results were reported at the 2019 GI Cancers Symposium.

Dr. David H. Ilson, a medical oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York Susan London/MDEdge News

Dr. David H. Ilson

“The standard of care for early-stage gastric cancer is surgery, which is the only potentially curative treatment,” noted lead investigator David H. Ilson, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “Forty percent of patients with metastatic disease have had a history of previous gastrectomy.”

The TAGS trial assessed efficacy of combined trifluridine and tipiracil (Lonsurf) among 507 patients with metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer who had received at least two prior chemotherapy regimens. (This combination chemotherapy is currently approved in the United States as later-line therapy for metastatic colorectal cancer.)

Compared with placebo, trifluridine/tipiracil prolonged overall survival by 2.6 months in the subgroup who had previously undergone gastrectomy, a benefit slightly greater than the 2.1 months previously reported for the entire trial population (Lancet Oncol. 2018;19:1437-48). And although the gastrectomy subgroup experienced more grade 3 or 4 adverse events, they were not more likely to stop treatment because of toxicity.

“The data from this analysis reinforce the benefit for trifluridine/tipiracil as prolonging survival versus placebo, and this is regardless of prior gastrectomy,” Dr. Ilson summarized. “Hematologic adverse events, such as neutropenia and leukopenia, may have been somewhat more frequent among the trifluridine/tipiracil–treated patients with gastrectomy than in the overall population, but this did not result in more treatment discontinuations. Exposure to the drug was similar between patients with gastrectomy and those in the overall population.”

“Trifluridine/tipiracil is an effective treatment option with a manageable toxicity profile for patients with metastatic gastric cancer, regardless of prior gastrectomy status,” he concluded.

Still fit for treatment

The disconnect between toxicity and treatment discontinuation seen in the TAGS trial is not new, according to invited discussant Martine Extermann, MD, PhD, leader of the Senior Adult Oncology Program at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Previous data among geriatric cancer patients have similarly shown that, despite substantial chemotherapy toxicity, by and large, there are only modest effects on health-related quality of life, performance status, and instrumental activities of daily living, she noted.

“The CTCAE [Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events] toxicity differences do not always translate into functional impact and treatment cessation. So this is only part of the picture. It’s a convenient part. It’s easily measurable. It’s well acknowledged as a measurement of side effects. But it does not tell the whole story. Quality of life and functional status add to the picture,” Dr. Extermann elaborated. “What the TAGS study is telling us is, despite a gastrectomy, these patients can be treated as a third-line treatment population for gastric cancer, which is not necessarily obvious to every oncologist.”

At the same time, she added that it would be helpful to have nutritional data on the study patients – and on all patients in similar trials, for that matter – because nutritional status is one of the components of the CRASH (Chemotherapy Risk Assessment Scale for High-Age Patients) score used to predict chemotherapy toxicity in older adults.

“I would support that [trifluridine/tipiracil] is an effective third-line chemotherapy in gastric cancer patients with or without prior gastrectomy, and this can be given safely,” Dr. Extermann concluded.


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