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Interval debulking surgery in advanced epithelial ovarian cancer.

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Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Division of Gynaecological Oncology, University of Brescia, Spedali Civili di Brescia, Italy.


Cytoreductive surgery and chemotherapy are the mainstay for the treatment of advanced epithelial ovarian cancer. In order to minimize the tumour burden before chemotherapy, cytoreductive surgery is usually performed first. The importance of the amount of residual disease as the main prognostic factor for patients suffering from advanced disease has been almost universally accepted even in the absence of prospective randomized trials addressing the benefit of cytoreductive surgery. In the last decade, the value of debulking surgery after induction chemotherapy - interval debulking surgery, IDS - has been widely debated, especially after the completion of a prospective randomized study from the EORTC addressing the introduction of a surgical procedure with debulking intent preceded and followed by cytoreductive chemotherapy. The rationale of such a strategy in the context of the primary treatment of advanced ovarian cancer lies in a higher cytoreductibility to the 'optimal' status forwarded, and possibly facilitated, by chemotherapy. The results demonstrated a prolongation of both progression-free survival and median survival in favour of patients randomized to IDS (5 and 6 months, respectively). Multivariate analysis revealed IDS to be an independent prognostic factor which reduced the risk of death by 33% at 3 years and by 48% in subsequent re-evaluation after more than 6 years of observation. Despite the above, results have been questioned by many, leading the GOG to perform a similar study which has been concluded very recently. Nevertheless, the main concern regarding the application of IDS in all instances relates to the morbidity of two major surgical procedures integrated within a short period during which cytotoxic chemotherapy is also administered. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy has been recently proposed to avoid a non-useful surgical procedure in patients considered 'optimally unresectable' after diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer. Whether or not this newer approach will translate into a longer survival with a better quality of life is going to be addressed by a novel EORTC study. Finally, the concept of a 'chemical' cytoreduction preceding and facilitating a subsequent 'surgical' effort has been recently introduced also in the treatment of recurrent disease. The EORTC has recently initiated a prospective randomized study (LOROCSON - Late Onset Recurrent Ovarian Cancer: Surgery or Not) to validate the importance of such an approach to be balanced with medical treatment alone not only in terms of survival but also as far as quality of life is concerned.

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