Two Landmark Papers Change Treatment Paradigm for Advanced Endometrial Cancer

Maurie Markman, MD


September 18, 2023

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. I'm Dr Maurie Markman from City of Hope. I wanted to very briefly highlight a truly extraordinary event in my professional experience as a clinical investigator for almost 40 years in the area of the gynecologic malignancies: the simultaneous publication in The New England Journal of Medicine of two landmark, paradigm-changing studies involving the management of advanced endometrial cancer.

In my career, of course, I've treated endometrial cancer, but the paradigm, the algorithms, and the strategies we've used have, for the most part, simply followed what we've done for ovarian cancer. If platinums worked in ovarian cancer, they probably worked in endometrial cancer, and that was true. If paclitaxel worked and had activity in ovarian cancer, it probably would in endometrial cancer, and that was true. It took some time, but basically, we use the same frontline chemotherapy in advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer as we've used in ovarian cancer, and on and on.

That world has changed, very much for the positive. Not only have pharmaceutical companies, academic investigators, and individual investigators in the community setting seen endometrial cancer as a major priority, but we have exciting new developments, and very specifically, of course, the immunotherapeutic agents known as checkpoint inhibitors.

One of these two papers was titled "Pembrolizumab Plus Chemotherapy in Advanced Endometrial Cancer," and the second one was titled "Dostarlimab for Primary Advanced or Recurrent Endometrial Cancer." Obviously, these were separate studies, but both used checkpoint inhibitor plus the chemotherapeutic agents carboplatin-paclitaxel compared with chemotherapy alone as frontline therapy for advanced or recurrent ovarian cancer and demonstrated a statistically significant, and in my opinion, highly clinically meaningful improvement, in progression-free survival in favor of the regimen that included the checkpoint inhibitors.

Clearly, we will need longer follow-up to see both the overall magnitude of the effect of these therapies on overall survival and the duration of the effect — the shape of the curve. Do we cure many more people? Do we delay time to progression and death? That remains to be seen.

But the outcomes we have now are remarkably positive for patients and have absolutely changed the standard of care in the management of recurrent or advanced endometrial cancer.

I should note that this includes patients who have both evidence of mismatch repair deficiency and those patients who do not have evidence of deficiency, which is a large patient population. These studies demonstrated the benefit to the entire population of patients.

However, on the basis of the data that we have — not only in endometrial cancer, but in other tumor types — the greatest impact was seen in patients with evidence of mismatch repair deficiency, where the immunotherapy agent has been shown to be most relevant; not exclusively, but most relevant.

These are very important papers. If you have an interest in endometrial cancer or immunotherapy, I would encourage you to read these papers. They change the paradigm of management for advanced endometrial cancer, and they clearly point out directions for future research in the management of this class of gynecologic cancers.

Maurie Markman, MD, is a professor in the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope in Duarte, California and the president of Medicine & Science at City of Hope Atlanta, Chicago, and Phoenix. He has more than 20 years of experience in cancer treatment and gynecologic oncology research.

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