Review Article

Adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage cervical cancer

Hiroshi Asano, Yukiharu Todo, Hidemichi Watari


The aim of this review is to address the current status of adjuvant chemotherapy alone in early-stage cervical cancer treatments in the literature. At present, the therapeutic effect of adjuvant chemotherapy alone after radical surgery (RS) has not yet been established, and radiation therapy (RT) or concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT) is recommended as the standard adjuvant therapy after RS for early-stage cervical cancer in various guidelines. The main purpose of adjuvant therapy after RS, however, should be to reduce extrapelvic recurrence rather than local recurrence, although adjuvant RT or CCRT has survival benefits for patients with intermediate- or high-risk factors for recurrence. Moreover, several studies reported that adjuvant therapies including RT were associated with a higher incidence of complications, such as lymphedema, bowel obstruction and urinary disturbance, and a lower grade of long-term quality of life (QOL) or sexual functioning than adjuvant chemotherapy alone. The effect of adjuvant chemotherapy alone for early-stage cervical cancer with intermediate- or high-risk factors for recurrence were not fully investigated in prospective studies, but several retrospective studies suggest that the adjuvant effects of chemotherapy alone are at least similar to that of RT or CCRT in terms of recurrence rate, disease-free survival, or overall survival (OS) with lower incidence of complications. Whereas cisplatin based combination regimens were used in these studies, paclitaxel/cisplatin (TP) regimen, which is currently recognized as a standard chemotherapy regimen for patients with metastatic, recurrent or persistent cervical cancer by Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG), had also survival benefit as an adjuvant therapy. Therefore, it may be worth considering a prospective randomized controlled trial (RCT) of adjuvant chemotherapy alone using TP regimen versus adjuvant RT as an alternative adjuvant therapy. Because early-stage cervical cancer is a curable condition, it is necessary that the therapeutic strategies should be improved with considering adverse events and QOL for long-term survivors.