Weekly paclitaxel (wPTX) is the preferred second-line chemotherapy for gastric cancer in Japan. Histone deacetylase inhibitors have been shown to decrease proliferation through cell-cycle arrest, differentiation, and apoptosis in gastric cancer cells. One histone deacetylase inhibitor, valproic acid (VPA), also inhibits tumor growth by inducing apoptosis and enhances the efficacy of paclitaxel (PTX), shown in a murine gastric cancer model. This Phase II trial was designed to evaluate the benefits of adding VPA to wPTX in patients with gastric cancer refractory to first-line treatment with fluoropyrimidine.
The patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive PTX 80 mg/m 2 intravenously on days 1, 8, and 15, every 4 weeks, or a dose of PTX plus VPA taken everyday at 7.5 mg/kg twice daily. Random assignment was carried out at the data center with a minimization method adjusted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (0–1 vs 2), prior chemotherapy (first-line vs second-line), and measurable lesions (presence vs absence). The primary end point was the overall survival (OS) rate, and the secondary end points were the progression-free survival rate and safety analysis.
Sixty-six patients were randomly assigned to receive wPTX (n=33) or wPTX plus VPA (n=33). The median OS was 9.8 months in the wPTX group and 8.7 months in the wPTX plus VPA group (hazard ratio 1.19; 95% CI 0.702–2.026; P=0.51). The median progression-free survival was 4.5 months in the wPTX group and 3.0 months in the wPTX plus VPA group (hazard ratio 1.29; 95% CI 0.753–2.211; P=0.35). Grade 3–4 adverse events were neutropenia (3.1%), pneumonia (1.6%), liver injury (1.6%), brain infarction (1.6%), and rupture of aorta (1.6%).