Gastric Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 10–18 | Cite as

Prognostic significance of peritoneal lavage cytology in staging gastric cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Sara Jamel
  • Sheraz R. Markar
  • George Malietzis
  • Amish Acharya
  • Thanos Athanasiou
  • George B. Hanna
Open Access
Review Article

Abstract

Background

Peritoneal cytology has been used as a part of the cancer staging of gastric cancer patients. The primary aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the value of peritoneal cytology as part of the staging of gastric cancer and survival prediction. The second aim was to establish if positive cytology may be modified by neoadjuvant therapy, to improve prognosis.

Methods

An electronic literature search was performed using Embase, Medline, Web of Science, and Cochrane library databases up to January 2016. The logarithm of the hazard ratio (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) was used as the primary summary statistic. Comparative studies were used, and the outcome measure was survival in three groups: (1) positive versus negative cytology at staging laparoscopy immediately preceding surgery; (2) effect of neoadjuvant therapy on cytology and survival; and (3) positive cytology in the absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease was compared with obvious macroscopic peritoneal disease.

Results

Pooled analysis demonstrated that positive cytology was associated with significantly reduced overall survival (HR, 3.46; 95% CI, 2.77–4.31; P < 0.0001). Interestingly, negative cytology following neoadjuvant chemotherapy was associated with significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.31–0.57; P < 0.0001). The absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease with positive cytology was associated with significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.56–0.73; P < 0.0001).

Conclusion

This study suggests that patients with initial positive cytology may have a good prognosis following neoadjuvant treatment if the cytology results change to negative after treatment.

Keywords

Gastric cancer, stomach neoplasm Laparoscopy Peritoneal cytology Cancer staging Cancer prognosis 

Introduction

The main treatment of advanced nonmetastatic gastric cancer is surgical resection with perioperative chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy [1, 2]. Efforts to prolong survival in metastatic gastric cancer have showed little improvement [1, 2]. Accurate staging of gastric cancer is crucial in selecting the appropriate treatment option, whether curative or palliative. The Japanese Gastric Cancer Association included the results of cytological examination of peritoneal lavage fluid as a key prognostic factor in their classification of gastric carcinoma [1, 3]. However, recently published guidelines suggested that cytology-positive status in the absence of other noncurative factors, that is, macroscopic disease, can be managed with D2 gastrectomy and perioperative chemotherapy [4]. Initial data of those treated with surgery alone showed poor 5-year survival; however, more recent publications have shown that the use of postoperative chemotherapy improves overall survival rates to 26%, [5, 6]. On the other hand, if the information on cytology status were available before surgery, a chemotherapy-first strategy could be taken whereby patients whose cytology status turned negative could be preferentially treated with curative surgery [7, 8].

The incidence of positive peritoneal cytology for patients with gastric cancer varies, in published reports, from 4% to 41% [9]. Peritoneal washings positive for cancer cells have been demonstrated to correlate with the extent of cancer (T1/T2, 0%; T3/T4, 10%; M+, 59%) [10] and have been considered as stage IV disease [11]. The influence of positive cytology on survival has been shown as a powerful independent predictor of survival when compared to other postoperative pathological variables such as the tumor serosal invasion or lymph node involvement [2, 6, 12, 13]. Positive cytology was shown to be the most powerful predictor of outcome, with a risk ratio of 2.7 for patients undergoing curative resection [2]. Furthermore, studies have also shown that the number and arrangement of cytology-positive cells have an effect on survival at the time of gastrectomy [10, 12].

The results of the randomized controlled trial by the apan Clinical Oncology Group (JCOG 0705) and Korea Gastric Cancer Association (KGCA01), comparing gastrectomy plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone in advanced gastric cancer with a single noncurable factor, showed no advantage of resecting the primary gastric cancer in the presence of peritoneal metastasis [11]. Nevertheless, the treatment recommendations for gastric cancer in the event of positive cytology range from palliative chemotherapy to attempts at neoadjuvant therapy followed by surgical resection [4, 14].

The aim of this study was to evaluate the value of peritoneal cytology as part of the staging of gastric cancer and survival prediction. The secondary aim is to establish if positive cytology may be modified by neoadjuvant therapy to improve prognosis.

Methods

Literature search strategy

An electronic literature search was undertaken using Embase, Medline, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases up to January 2016. The search terms ‘gastric cancer,’ ‘laparoscopy,’ ‘peritoneal cytology,’ ‘cancer staging,’ and ‘prognosis,’ and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) ‘stomach neoplasms,’ ‘neoplasm metastasis,’ ‘laparoscopy,’ and ‘cytology’ were used in combination with the Boolean operators AND or OR (Fig. 1). Two authors (S.J. and S.R.M.) performed the electronic search independently in January 2016. The electronic search was supplemented by a hand-search of published abstracts from meetings of the Society of Academic and Research Surgery, Digestive Disease Week, the Association of Upper Gastro-Intestinal Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology for 2005–2015. The reference lists of articles obtained were also searched to identify further relevant citations; as was the Current Controlled Trials Register (http://www.controlled-trials.com). Abstracts of the articles identified by the electronic search were scrutinized by two of the authors (S.J. and S.R.M.) to determine their suitability for inclusion in the pooled analysis. Any discordances regarding study inclusion between these two authors were settled in discussion with a third independent author (A.A.). The quality of evidence provided by each study was evaluated using the Oxford levels of evidence-based medicine scoring system (http://www.cebm.net/oxford-centre-evidence-based-medicine-levels-evidence-march-2009).
Fig. 1

PRISMA flow diagram of literature search in this meta-analysis

Publications were included in this review if they meet the following criteria:
  • Studies concerning patients with gastric cancer

  • Comparative studies of patients with positive and negative peritoneal cytology

  • Comparative studies evaluating the effect of neoadjuvant chemotherapy upon patients with positive cytology from gastric cancer

  • Comparative studies of patients with positive peritoneal cytology in the absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease and patients with macroscopic peritoneal disease.

Publications were excluded if they met any of the following criteria:
  • Studies published in a language other than English

  • Case reports or cohort studies including fewer than ten patients

  • Noncomparative studies or studies not concerning peritoneal cytology and gastric cancer.

In the situation in which authors from the same institution had published a primary paper and then an updated analysis with a larger patient cohort, the most recent publication was included in the analysis.

Outcome measures for meta-analysis of comparative studies

The primary outcome measure evaluated was the hazard ratio (HR) for overall survival. Three comparisons were made:
  1. 1.

    Positive versus negative cytology at staging laparoscopy immediately preceding surgery.

     
  2. 2.

    Initially positive cytology that became negative following neoadjuvant therapy was compared with positive cytology that remained positive despite neoadjuvant therapy.

     
  3. 3.

    Positive cytology in the absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease was compared with obviously macroscopic peritoneal disease.

     

Statistical analysis

The logarithm of the hazard ratio (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) was used as the primary summary statistic. To estimate HR and its variance, this was extracted from the study directly or required additional calculation depending on the method of data being presented: annual mortality rates, survival curves, number of deaths, or percentage of freedom from death [15].

Meta-analysis of data was conducted using a random effects model. Publication bias was explored graphically with funnel plots to detect asymmetry and any outliers. Interstudy heterogeneity was assessed using the chi-square statistic and the I 2 value to measure the degree of variation not attributable to chance alone: this was graded as low (I 2 < 25%), moderate (I 2 = 25–75%), or high (I 2 > 75%). The significance level was set at P < 0.05. Calculations were performed by G.M. and verified by T.A. This study was performed in line with Cochrane recommendations, following the MOOSE guidelines, using appropriate statistical software (STATA/SE12) [16].

Results

Patient demographics

The total number of patients included in this meta-analysis was 7970, with a male to female ratio of 1:1.6 (Table 1). The tumor demographics have been described for each group: negative versus positive cytology (Table 2).
Table 1

Demographics of patients with cytology-positive (Cyt +ve) and cytology-negative (Cyt −ve) results

Study

Total patients

F:M ratio

Median age

Age range

No. patients

Cyt +ve

Recurrence

No. patients

Cyt −ve

Recurrence

Comorbidities

Comorbidities

Badgwell

381

1/1.8

61

24–88

39

  

223

  

Bentrem

371

1/1.2

67

21–88

24

  

347

  

Brito

72

1/1.8

60.4

47.1–73.7

8

  

64

  

Chuwa

142

1/1.8

  

36

17

6

1C6

17

6

Euanoraster

97

1/1.8

  

22

 

22

75

 

22

Fukagawa

996

1/1.1

  

225

  

541

  

Jiang

139

 

57

28–80

38

 

31

101

 

31

Kang

75

1.2.1

  

7

 

6

68

 

6

Katsuragi

124

1/2.1

  

26

32

 

39

32

 

Kodera

70

   

13

  

22

  

La Torre

64

01/01/01

64.5

29–84

7

  

57

  

Lee

1072

   

172

  

900

  

Makino

113

1/2.1

  

35

  

78

  

de Manzon

168

1/1.7

  

145

  

23

  

Miyashiro

417

1/0.6

61

27–87

25

  

295

  

Nakagawa

100

1/0.6

62

28–83

9

  

30

  

Noda

1474

1/1.9

  

91

  

1383

  

Ribeiro

201

1/2.2

  

15

  

186

  

Rosenberg

351

1/1.65

  

74

  

272

  

Wong

38

   

31

  

125

  

Total

6465

   

1042

  

4935

  
Table 2

Pathological features of gastric cancer in both positive cytology (a) and negative cytology (b)

 

Nodal involvement

Primary tumor

(Clinical T disease)

Tumor differentiation

Histological type

Angiolymphatic invasion

T1–T2

T3–T4

Differentiated

Poorly differentiated

Intestinal

Diffuse

(a) Positive cytology

 Badgwel

   

6

30

   

 Bentrem

150

4

19

     

 Brito

5

0–2(5), 3–4 (37)

   

5

3

5

 Chuwa

28

0

36

     

 Euanoraster

22

14

 

2

20

  

18

 Fukagawa

 

234

307

     

 Jiang

29

3

35

14

24

18

20

17

 Kang

5

0

7

1

6

   

 Katsuragi

34

5

41

   

14

11

 Kodera

20

2

20

     

 La Torre

7

1

6

     

 Lee

105

6

102

31

141

37

55

 

 Makino

28

 

35

  

5

30

 

 de Manzoni

13

0

23

  

9

14

 

 Miyashiro

25

10

15

7

18

   

 Nakagawa

        

 Noda

88

2

89

  

33

58

41

 Riheiro

14

0

15

  

6

9

 

 Rosenberg

57

36

38

     

 Wong

2

0

2

1

1

1

1

4

(b) Negative cytology

 Badgwel

   

45

165

   

 Bentrem

14

172

     

48

 Brito

42

5

3

  

36

26

 

 Chuwa

44

46

60

    

24

 Euanoraster

61

14

61

25

50

   

 Fukagawa

 

6

13

    

21

 Jiang

53

40

61

41

60

46

55

 

 Kang

46

23

45

25

43

  

14

 Katsuragi

46

47

23

  

33

37

 

 Kodera

29

6

31

     

 La Torre

36

39

18

     

 Lee

648

368

429

271

629

359

367

 

 Makino

49

 

78

  

35

43

 

 de Manzoni

77

78

67

  

83

62

 

 Miyashiro

        

 Nakagawa

       

559

 Noda

977

411

972

  

577

806

 

 Ribeiro

131

66

120

  

85

101

 

 Rosenberg

114

223

49

     

 Wong

        

Meta-analysis

Positive versus negative cytology

Pooled analysis of 21 studies [2, 3, 5, 9, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34] included 6499 patients in total, 1052 in the positive and 4948 in the negative cytology group at staging laparoscopy. The median follow-up period ranged from 24 to 140 months. This pooled analysis demonstrated that positive cytology was associated with a significantly reduced overall survival (HR, 3.46; 95% CI, 2.77–4.31; P < 0.0001) (Fig. 2). There was evidence of significant statistical heterogeneity for this result (I 2 = 84.1%).
Fig. 2

Forrest plot of pooled analysis demonstrated that positive cytology results were associated with significantly reduced overall survival (HR, 3.46; 95% CI, 2.77–4.31; P < 0.0001)

Following neoadjuvant therapy: positive versus negative cytology

Pooled analysis of five studies [7, 24, 35, 36, 37] included 519 patients in total; 73 in the positive cytology and 139 in the negative cytology group. The median follow-up period ranged from 60 to 84 months. This pooled analysis demonstrated that negative cytology following neoadjuvant chemotherapy was associated with significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.31–0.57; P < 0.0001) (Fig. 3). There was evidence of significant statistical heterogeneity for this result (I 2 = 62.5%).
Fig. 3

Forrest plot for pooled analysis demonstrated that negative cytology results following neoadjuvant chemotherapy were associated with significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.31–0.57; P < 0.0001)

Positive cytology versus macroscopic peritoneal disease

Pooled analysis of seven studies [3, 7, 9, 17, 20, 25] included 1035 patients in total, 465 in the positive cytology and 537 in the macroscopic peritoneal disease group. The median follow-up period ranged from 36 to 120 months. This pooled analysis demonstrated that positive cytology in the absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease was associated with a significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.56–0.73; P < 0.0001) (Fig. 4). There was no evidence of significant statistical heterogeneity for this result (I 2 = 0%).
Fig. 4

Pooled analysis demonstrated that positive cytology in the absence of macroscopic peritoneal disease was associated with significantly improved overall survival (HR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.56–0.73; P < 0.0001)

Bias exploration/sensitivity analyses

Funnel plots were created for combined and subgroup analysis for the various factors to visually assess the publication bias; these demonstrated symmetry. To determine the influence of each study’s individual dataset, we performed sensitivity analyses for the subgroups as described. A single study involved in the pooled meta-analysis was excluded each time, and the corresponding HR was not changed noticeably (data not shown).

Discussion

This meta-analysis has demonstrated negative peritoneal cytology before treatment improves survival rate when compared with positive cytology. Cytology should be considered a modifiable factor as it was found in this meta-analysis, that the change in cytology status from a positive to negative result following chemotherapy was shown to carry an improvement in overall survival. Furthermore, although positive cytology is considered stage IV disease, the prognosis and overall survival associated with positive cytology versus macroscopic peritoneal metastasis are not equivalent [31]. Fujiwara et al. have shown that the change in cytology status to negative following receiving neo-adjuvant intraperitoneal chemotherapy and systemic chemotherapy improved prognosis [37]. It is worth noting that although Lorenzen et al. have also shown that the change in cytological status to negative following chemotherapy led to improved prognosis, almost 25% with negative cytology became positive following chemotherapy, thus worsening their prognosis and outcome [36]. The prediction of response of patients to neoadjuvant therapy as assessed by cytology remains a challenging area for future research to provide patient- and tumor-targeted therapy.

Regarding peritoneal disease, this meta-analysis has shown that positive cytology alone carries better survival compared with macroscopic peritoneal dissemination. Although survival with no treatment can be similar between these two groups, the use of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy was shown to improve the 3-year overall survival from 0% in gross peritoneal disease to 12% in positive cytology with no overt peritoneal disease [9]. Therefore, the concept that positive cytology is a potentially modifiable factor is further supported. Interestingly, Miyashiro et al. also studied the number of cancer cells detected in cytology studies versus peritoneal metastasis and found that when a higher number of cells was detected, survival was similar to those with peritoneal metastasis [3]. There was insufficient evidence available to define a threshold of positive cancer cells from cytology that changed survival from this review, which remains an important area for future research.

There are a number of limitations to this systematic review and meta-analysis that need to be acknowledged. First, the lack of randomized control trials (RCTs) that met the inclusion criteria is therefore reducing the power of the analyses. Second, only studies in the English-language literature were included, so it is possible that relevant studies in other languages will be identified in the future. Also, patient demographics and co-morbidities were not reported in all the included studies.

In conclusion, the results of this meta-analysis support the importance of peritoneal cytology results in the assessment of gastric cancer patients. We have shown that negative cytology and the change in cytological status from positive to negative improve survival in gastric cancer. This knowledge justifies the notion to reconsider the presence of positive peritoneal cytology as an absolute indication for palliative intent of treatment without further consideration to changing status following chemotherapy (Fig. 5). The change of initial positive cytology to negative subsequent to treatment should be the subject of a prospective large-scale multicenter study that examines long-term survival benefits.
Fig. 5

Management algorithm for gastric cancer patients depending on their cytology status and response to chemotherapy

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

No funding sources were used in the preparation of this manuscript, and the authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

No ethical approval or informed consent statement was required for this review article.

Sources of funding

Sheraz R. Markar is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Jamel
    • 1
  • Sheraz R. Markar
    • 1
  • George Malietzis
    • 1
  • Amish Acharya
    • 1
  • Thanos Athanasiou
    • 1
  • George B. Hanna
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Surgery and CancerImperial College LondonLondonUK

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