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Volume 4, Issue 1-2, Pages 31-35

Epirubicin is not Superior to Doxorubicin in the Treatment of Advanced Soft Tissue Sarcomas. The Experience of the EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group

1Centre for Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcomas, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
2Department of Oncology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, Denmark
3The Finsen Center, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
4The Laboratory Center, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
5EORTC Data Centre, Brussels, Belgium and Department of Medical Oncology, The Netherlands
6Rotterdam Cancer Institute (Daniel den Hoed Kliniek) and University Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Purpose. Doxorubicin (dox) still appears to be one of the most active drugs in the treatment of soft tissue sarcomas. However, treatment duration is limited due to cumulative cardiotoxicity. A number of small studies from single institutions have suggested activity of other analogues. In two studies the EORTC STBSG tested whether epirubicin (epi) is an alternative to standard dose dox in the treatment of chemonaive patients with advanced soft tissue sarcoma. The present report gives the final results of these studies.

Patients/Methods. In the first study 210 patients were randomized to receive either dox or epi both at a dose of 75 mg/m2 given as bolus injection at 3-week intervals. In the second study 334 patients were randomized to dox 75 mg/m2, epi 150 mg/m2 or epi 50 mg/m2 days 1–3, all given as bolus injection at 3-week intervals.

Results. In the first study no differences in median survival and duration of response were found. Of 167 evaluable patients the response rate was slightly in favour of dox (23% vs 18%) but at the expense of more toxicity.These data could suggest that increasing the epi dose may lead to a greater antineoplastic effect with acceptable toxicity. In the second study 15% of 314 evaluable patients had an objective tumour response. There were no differences between the three groups with regard to response rate, progression-free and overall survival, but both dose schedules of epi were more myelotoxic than dox.

Conclusion. Regardless of schedule and dose, epi is not superior to dox in the treatment of patients with advanced soft tissue sarcomas. In addition, the results illustrate that the data from small studies of single institutions should always be confirmed by large multi-institutional studies before being taken for granted.