BACKGROUND - The authors retrospectively analyzed 87 patients with malignant thymoma treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center between 1951 and 1990. The analysis examined the clinical stages, histologic types, and treatment modalities and attempted to determine if chemotherapy had an impact on survival.
METHODS - The patients were divided into three groups by their year of treatment and treatment modality. Patients treated between 1951 and 1975 were in Group I; patients treated between 1976 and 1980 were in Group II; and patients treated between 1981 and 1990 were in Group III. Most of the patients (18 [72%] in Group I; 16 [62%] in Group II; and 18 [50%] in Group III) had surgical resection alone or with radiotherapy. Patients with advanced-stage disease in Group I received single-agent chemotherapy, whereas patients with advanced-stage disease in Group II received a different, combination chemotherapy regimen, and those in Group III were treated primarily with cisplatin- and doxorubicin-based combination chemotherapy, e.g., the cyclophosphamide doxorubicin, and cisplatin with or without prednisone. The 17 patients treated with cisplatin with or without prednisone were separately evaluated for survival according to their response.
RESULTS - Twenty-eight patients (5 [20%] in Group I; 6 [23%] in Group II; and 17 [47%] in Group III) received chemotherapy alone or after surgery or radiotherapy. The cisplatin with or without prednisone regimen was used in 17 Group III patients for initial treatment or for relapse. The overall response rate among the patients receiving the cisplatin with or without prednisone regimen was 64%; 6 (35%) had a complete response, and 5 (29%) had a partial response. Thirty-one (36%) of the 87 total patients had 45 recurrent tumors; the lung (29%), pleura (22%), and mediastinum (18%) were the most common sites of recurrence, whereas bone was the most common distant metastatic site. The 5-year survival rate was 70% in patients with Stage I disease, 71% in patients with Stage II or III disease, and 46% in patients with Stage IV disease. The 10-year survival rate was 70% in patients with Stage I disease, 47% in patients with Stage II or III disease, and 21% in patients with Stage IV disease. Statistical analysis indicated a significant difference among the survival rates of patients with noninvasive Stage I, invasive Stage II plus III (P = 0.033), and Stage II plus III and IV tumors (P = 0.056), but not between patients with Stage II or III tumors. Patients with a major response to the cisplatin with or without prednisone regimen had a significant survival improvement compared to those with no response (P = 0.002, log-rank test).
CONCLUSIONS - Because thymoma is a chemosensitive tumor and frequently recurs in patients with Stage II or greater disease, chemotherapy carries a potential survival benefit and should be incorporated into the multimodality approach to prolong disease-free survival.