Conference Coverage

Surgical de-escalation passes clinical test in low-risk cervical cancer


AT ASCO 2023

When it comes to preventing pelvic recurrence in low-risk cervical cancer, simple hysterectomy is not inferior to radical hysterectomy, according to results from a phase 3, randomized, controlled trial.

“Following adequate and rigorous preoperative assessment, and that’s key – very careful [patient selection] – simple hysterectomies can now be considered the new standard of care for patients with low-risk early-stage cervical cancer,” said Marie Plante, MD, during a presentation of the study at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. A simple hysterectomy removes the uterus and cervix, while a radical hysterectomy also removes the parametrium and upper vagina.

Cervical cancer incidence has gone down over the past 2 decades as a result of improved screening, and patients tend to be lower in age and are more likely to have low-risk, early-stage disease, according to Dr. Plante. “Although radical surgery is highly effective for the treatment of low-risk disease, women are at risk of suffering survivorship issues related to long-term surgical side effects including compromised bladder, bowel, and sexual function,” said Dr. Plante, who is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Laval University and head of clinical research at l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, both in Quebec City.

Retrospective studies found that infiltration of the parametrium is quite rare in low-risk cases, “suggesting that less radical surgery may be a safe option associated with decreased morbidity – what we call surgical de-escalation,” said Dr. Plante.

To test that idea more rigorously, the researchers designed the SHAPE trial, which randomized 700 women to a simple hysterectomy or radical hysterectomy. Patients were carefully selected to be low risk, having squamous cell, adenocarcinoma, or adenosquamous carcinoma, stage IA2 or IB2 tumors, fewer than 10 mm of stromal invasion on loop electrosurgical excision procedure or cone biopsy, less than 50% stromal invasion seen in MRI, and a maximum tumor dimension of 20 mm or less. Tumors were grade I-III or not assessable.

Over a median follow-up of 4.5 years, pelvic recurrence was 2.52% in the simple hysterectomy group and 2.17% in the radical hysterectomy group. The difference between the recurrence rate between the two groups was 0.35%, with an upper 95% confidence limit of 2.32%, below the threshold of 4% which had been predetermined as a benchmark for similar outcomes between the two groups. “Therefore, noninferiority of simple hysterectomy to radical hysterectomy could be concluded,” said Dr. Plante.

There were no statistically significant differences in intraoperative complications or mortality between the groups.

Surgery-related adverse events greater in radical hysterectomy group

There were some differences between the groups with respect to surgery-related adverse events. Within 4 weeks of surgery, there was a greater incidence of any adverse event in the radical hysterectomy group (50.6% vs. 42.6%; P = .04), as well as greater incidences of urinary incontinence (5.5% vs. 2.4%; P = .048) and urinary retention (11.0% vs. 0.6%; P < .0001). In the 4 weeks following surgery, there was a trend toward more surgery-related adverse events in the radical hysterectomy group (60.5% vs. 53.6%; P = .08) and higher incidences of urinary incontinence (11.0% vs. 4.7%; P = .003) and urinary retention (9.9% vs. 0.6%; P < .0001).

“Urinary incontinence and urinary retention are statistically worse in the radical hysterectomy group – both acutely, as well as [during] the following four weeks after surgery, suggesting that the problem persisted over time,” said Dr. Plante.

Dr. Plante also presented the study at a premeeting virtual press conference, during which Kathleen Moore, MD, provided comments on the study. She expressed enthusiasm about the results.

“Amongst those carefully selected tumors, radical hysterectomy can be converted to a simple hysterectomy, including minimally invasive. You still have to do nodes – that’s an important thing to remember – but you can do this without loss of oncologic control. And importantly, with reduction in surgical complications, postop morbidity, specifically neurologic morbidity. The moment this is presented [at the ASCO conference] this will be the new standard of care, and it represents a huge step forward in the care of women with early-stage cervical cancer,” said Dr. Moore, who is a professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City.

Also in the press conference, Dr. Plante emphasized the importance of a thorough understanding of the tumor, including size, imaging, and pathology. “The more conservative one wants to be, the more meticulous, the more careful one has to be to make sure that we’re truly dealing with low-risk patients.”

During the question-and-answer session following her presentation at the ASCO session, a moderator asked Dr. Plante if the presence of lymph vascular space invasion (LVSI) should prompt a radical hysterectomy.

Dr. Plante noted that about 13% of both radical and simple hysterectomy groups had LVSI present. “I think the key thing is careful selection, but I’m not sure that we should exclude LVSI [from consideration for simple hysterectomy] de facto,” she said.

Dr. Plante has consulted or advised Merck Serono and has received travel, accommodations, or other expenses from AstraZeneca. Dr. Moore has consulted, advised, and received research funding and travel expenses from numerous pharmaceutical companies.

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