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The use of cytotoxic chemotherapy (CT) between external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) and intracavitary brachytherapy (BT) in patients with bulky carcinomas of the uterine cervix which regress poorly after initial EBRT has been evaluated in a pilot study. The aim of CT was to limit tumour clonogen repopulation while awaiting further tumour regression in order to improve the BT dose distribution. Between 1989 and 1992, 22 patients with FIGO Stage IIA, IIB and IIIB cervical carcinomas were given two to three cycles of cisplatin-based CT between EBRT and intracavitary BT. Patients were selected for CT if there was bulky residual tumour extending beyond the range of point 'A' after completion of EBRT. The median survival of patients with Stage IIA/B and Stage IIIB disease was 24 months and 13 months, respectively. The 5 year actuarial survival rate for patients with Stage IIA/B disease was 42%. There were no long-term survivors among patients with Stage IIIB disease. Survival difference between Stage IIA/B patients and Stage IIIB patients was statistically significant (p < 0.04). 5 year actuarial pelvic control rates were 38% and 0% for Stage IIA/B and Stage IIIB patients, respectively. There were no serious late radiation complications in the entire study group. Bulky carcinomas of the cervix which respond poorly to initial EBRT have a particularly poor prognosis. For Stage IB-IIB patients with persistent bulky disease after EBRT, published reports suggest that a 5 year actuarial survival rate of around 40% can be obtained using higher doses of radiation alone, but the risk of serious late morbidity is considerable. The results of our study suggest that in Stage IIA/B carcinomas of the cervix which remain bulky after initial EBRT, the use of integrated cytotoxic chemotherapy prior to intracavitary BT can give similar 5 year survival rates but with minimal treatment related morbidity.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Radiology

Publication Date





165 - 171