Sequence of treatment in locally advanced and metastatic renal cell carcinoma
The spectrum of drugs that have shown activity in advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has led to a debate on the optimal sequence of treatments. There is agreement on recommending targeted agents as the standard of care in this disease. Uncertainty, however, remains on the best first-line drug choice. Physicians and patients may select sunitinib, bevacizumab in combination with interferon-alpha (IFN-α), pazopanib, or—in poor risk patients—temsirolimus. There are also a variety of therapies with proven efficacy on hand in the second-line setting: sorafenib, pazopanib, axitinib, and everolimus. While most randomized RCC trials assessed progression free survival (PFS) as primary endpoint, some agents were shown to improve median overall survival (OS), and given in sequence they have extended the life expectancy of RCC patients from 13 months in the cytokine era to over 30 months. Despite the progress made, there are sobering aspects to the oncologic success story in RCC, as the new treatments do not obtain an objective response or disease stabilization (SD) in all patients. There are also as yet no predictors to select patients who might benefit and those who are primary resistant to specific drugs, and ultimately almost all patients will experience disease progression. Bearing inevitable treatment failure in mind, availability of further drugs and switching therapy while the patient is in a condition to continue pharmacotherapy is essential. Of note, depending on the setting, only 33-59% of patients receive second-line treatment. In this review we present data on first-, second-, and third-line treatment in RCC, and discuss the difficulties in their interpretation in the context of treatment sequence. We summarize biological aspects and discuss mechanisms of resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy and their implications for treatment selection.