Molar Pregnancy

  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Care

    Molar pregnancy refers to a slow-growing tumor that develops from trophoblastic cells (cells that help an embryo attach to the uterus and help form the placenta) after fertilization of an egg by a sperm. Learn about molar pregnancy and find information on how we support and care for women with molar pregnancy before, during, and after treatment.

Treatment 

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer or are at high risk of developing one, the specialists in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers Gynecologic Oncology Program provide expert, compassionate care.

Because gynecologic cancers can have a wide range of physical and emotional effects, we’ve assembled a team of experts from many disciplines to help you and your family cope with cancer and its treatment. Our doctors and other caregivers will work closely with you to develop an individualized treatment plan suited to your situation.

As well as providing specialized medical care, we offer a range of supportive services, including nutritional counseling, emotional and spiritual support, financial advice, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage.

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Learn more about our treatment and care for women with gynecologic cancers 

Our clinicians are experts in treating all types of gynecologic cancers, including: 

  • Cervical cancer
  • Carcinosarcomas
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Gestational trophoblastic tumor
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Epithelial ovarian cancer
  • Germ cell ovarian cancer
  • Low malignant ovarian cancer
  • Borderline ovarian cancer
  • Primary peritoneal cancer
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Choriocarcinoma
  • Molar pregnancy

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Information for: Patients | Healthcare Professionals

Description

What are gestational trophoblastic tumors?

Gestational trophoblastic tumor, a rare cancer in women, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells grow in the tissues that are formed following conception (the joining of sperm and egg). Gestational trophoblastic tumors start inside the uterus, the hollow, muscular, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows. This type of cancer occurs in women during the years when they are able to have children. There are two types of gestational trophoblastic tumors: hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma.

If a patient has a hydatidiform mole (also called a molar pregnancy), the sperm and egg cells have joined without the development of a baby in the uterus. Instead, the tissue that is formed resembles grape-like cysts. Hydatidiform mole does not spread outside of the uterus to other parts of the body.

If a patient has a choriocarcinoma, the tumor may have started from a hydatidiform mole or from tissue that remains in the uterus following an abortion or delivery of a baby. Choriocarcinoma can spread from the uterus to other parts of the body. A very rare type of gestational trophoblastic tumor starts in the uterus where the placenta was attached. This type of cancer is called placental-site trophoblastic disease.

Gestational trophoblastic tumor is not always easy to find. In its early stages, it may look like a normal pregnancy. A doctor should be seen if the there is vaginal bleeding (not menstrual bleeding) and if a woman is pregnant and the baby hasn’t moved at the expected time.

If there are symptoms, a doctor may use several tests to see if the patient has a gestational trophoblastic tumor. An internal (pelvic) examination is usually the first of these tests. The doctor will feel for any lumps or strange feeling in the shape or size of the uterus. The doctor may then do an ultrasound, a test that uses sound waves to find tumors. A blood test will also be done to look for high levels of a hormone called beta-HCG (beta human chorionic gonadotropin) which is present during normal pregnancy. If a woman is not pregnant and HCG is in the blood, it can be a sign of gestational trophoblastic tumor.

The chance of recovery (prognosis) and choice of treatment depend on the type of gestational trophoblastic tumor, whether it has spread to other places, and the patient’s general state of health.

Stage Explanation

Stages of gestational trophoblastic tumors

Once gestational trophoblastic tumor has been found, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer has spread from inside the uterus to other parts of the body (staging). Treatment of gestational trophoblastic tumor depends on the stage of the disease and the patient’s age and general health. The following stages are used for gestational trophoblastic tumor:

Hydatidiform mole

Cancer is found only in the space inside the uterus. If the cancer is found in the muscle of the uterus, it is called an invasive mole (choriocarcinoma destruens).

Placental-site gestational trophoblastic tumors

Cancer is found in the place where the placenta was attached and in the muscle of the uterus.

Nonmetastatic

Cancercells have grown inside the uterus from tissue remaining following treatment of a hydatidiform mole or following an abortion or delivery of a baby. Cancer has not spread outside the uterus.

Metastatic, good prognosis

Cancercells have grown inside the uterus from tissue remaining following treatment of a hydatidiform mole or following an abortion or delivery of a baby. The cancer has spread from the uterus to other parts of the body. Metastaticgestational trophoblastic tumors are considered good prognosis or poor prognosis.

Metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor is considered good prognosis if all of the following are true:

  1. The last pregnancy was less than 4 months ago.
  2. The level of beta-HCG in the blood is low.
  3. Cancer has not spread to the liver or brain.
  4. The patient has not received chemotherapy earlier.

Metastatic, poor prognosis

Cancercells have grown inside the uterus from tissue remaining following treatment of a hydatidiform mole or following an abortion or delivery of a baby. The cancer has spread from the uterus to other parts of the body. Metastaticgestational trophoblastic tumors are considered good prognosis or poor prognosis.

Metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor is considered poor prognosis if any the following are true:

  1. The last pregnancy was more than 4 months ago.
  2. The level of beta-HCG in the blood is high.
  3. Cancer has spread to the liver or brain.
  4. The patient received chemotherapy earlier and the cancer did not go away.
  5. The tumor began after the completion of a normal pregnancy.

Recurrent

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the uterus or in another part of the body.

Treatment Option Overview

How gestational trophoblastic tumor is treated

Different types of treatment are available for patients with gestational trophoblastic tumor. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Two kinds of standard treatment are used: surgery (taking out the cancer) and chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells). Radiation therapy (using high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells) may be used in certain cases to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

The doctor may take out the cancer using one of the following operations:

  1. Dilation and curettage (D & C) with suction evacuation is stretching the opening of the uterus (the cervix) and removing the material inside the uterus with a small vacuum-like device. The walls of the uterus are then scraped gently to remove any material that may remain in the uterus. This is used only for molar pregnancies.
  2. Hysterectomy is an operation to take out the uterus. The ovaries usually are not removed in the treatment of this disease.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be taken by pill or put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle. It is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the uterus. Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery or alone.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation).

Treatment in a clinical trial

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. In the following lists of treatments for the different stages, a link to search results for current clinical trials is included for each section. These have been retrieved from NCI’s clinical trials database. For some types or stages of cancer, there may not be any trials listed. Check with your doctor for clinical trials that are not listed here but may be right for you.

Hydatidiform Mole

Treatment may be one of the following:

  1. Removal of the mole using dilation and curettage (D & C) and suction evacuation.
  2. Surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).

Following surgery, the doctor will follow the patient closely with regular blood tests to make sure the level of beta-HCG in the blood falls to normal levels. If the blood level of beta-HCG increases or does not go down to normal, more tests will be done to see whether the tumor has spread. Treatment will then depend on whether the patient has nonmetastatic disease or metastatic disease (see the treatment sections on metastatic or nonmetastatic disease).

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with hydatidiform mole. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Placental-Site Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Treatment will probably be surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with placental-site gestational trophoblastic tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Nonmetastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Treatment may be one of the following:

  1. Chemotherapy.
  2. Surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) if the patient no longer wishes to have children.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with nonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Good Prognosis Metastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Treatment may be one of the following:

  1. Chemotherapy.
  2. Surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) followed by chemotherapy.
  3. Chemotherapy followed by hysterectomy if cancer remains following chemotherapy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with good prognosis metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Poor Prognosis Metastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Treatment will probably be chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be given to places where the cancer has spread, such as the brain.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with poor prognosis metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Recurrent Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Treatment will probably be chemotherapy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with recurrent gestational trophoblastic tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

To Learn More About Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

For more information from the National Cancer Institute about gestational trophoblastic tumors, see the following:

For general cancer information and other resources from the National Cancer Institute, see the following:


This information is provided by the National Cancer Institute.

This information was last updated on June 26, 2008.


Purpose of This PDQ Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of gestational trophoblastic tumors. This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by thePDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board.

Information about the following is included in this summary:

  • Prognostic factors.
  • Cellular classification.
  • Staging.
  • Treatment options by cancer stage.

This summary is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Some of the reference citations in the summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board uses aformal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations. Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options are described as either “standard” or “under clinical evaluation.” These classifications should not be used as a basis for reimbursement determinations.

This summary is available in apatient version, written in less technical language, and inSpanish.

General Information

Gestational trophoblastic tumors (GTTs) are rare but highly curable tumors arising from the products of conception in the uterus. The prognosis for cure of patients with GTTs is good even when the disease has spread to distant organs, especially when only the lungs are involved. The probability of cure depends on the following:

  • Histologic type (mole, invasive mole, or choriocarcinoma).
  • Extent of spread of the disease.
  • Level of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) titer.
  • Duration of disease from the initial pregnancy event to start of treatment.
  • Specific sites of metastases.
  • Nature of antecedent pregnancy.
  • Extent of prior treatment.

Selection of treatment depends on these factors plus the patient’s desire for future pregnancies. The hCG, produced normally during pregnancy, is abnormally elevated in the blood and urine of patients with this group of diseases and is a sensitive marker to indicate the presence or absence of disease before, during, and after treatment.

The most common antecedent pregnancy is that of a hydatidiform mole, usually a genetic disorder of pregnancy in which only placental-like tissue is present. The patient will present with abnormal bleeding from onset of pregnancy and may have a uterus which is much larger than expected. Sonography is the preferred method of diagnosis, and suction dilation and curettage (D & C) is the preferred method of evacuation. Of utmost importance is careful follow-up with serum beta hCG (BhCG) weekly until less than 100 mIU/mL and then every 2 weeks. The patient should have a careful pelvic examination every other week and a chest x-ray every 4to 6 weeks. Once the titer of serum BhCG has fallen to normal levels, these two examinations need no longer be done; however, BhCG titers need to be repeated every 2 weeks for 3 months, then monthly for 3 months, then every 2 months for 6 months, then every 6 months for 3 years. Each patient should be counseled in the use of a reliable birth control method. Any patient who develops an increasing level of serum BhCG, a plateau of the BhCG over 3 weeks, or persistent elevation of BhCG after 16 weeks of follow-up should be considered as having gestational trophoblastic neoplasia and should undergo the appropriate work-up and treatment. Similarly, any patient who develops metastatic disease during follow-up should be staged and undergo treatment.

Choriocarcinoma most commonly follows a molar pregnancy but can follow a normal pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, or abortion, and should always be considered when a patient has continued vaginal bleeding in the postdelivery period. Other common signs include bizarre neurologic symptoms in a female within the reproductive age group and asymptomatic lesions on routine chest x-ray.

Cellular Classification

Gestational trophoblastic tumors may be classified as follows:[1]

  • Hydatidiform mole.
  • Invasive mole (chorioadenoma destruens).
  • Choriocarcinoma.
  • Placental-site trophoblastic tumor.

Hydatidiform mole 

Hydatidiform mole is defined as products of conception that lack an intact fetus and show gross cyst-like swellings of the chorionic villi caused by an accumulation of fluid. There is disintegration and loss of blood vessels in the villous core.

Invasive mole 

Invasive mole (chorioadenoma destruens) is a locally invasive, rarely metastatic lesion characterized microscopically by trophoblastic invasion of the myometrium with identifiable villous structures. Microscopically, this lesion is characterized by hyperplasia of cytotrophoblastic and syncytial elements and persistence of villous structures.

Choriocarcinoma 

Choriocarcinoma is a malignant tumor of the trophoblastic epithelium. Uterine muscle and blood vessels are invaded with areas of hemorrhage and necrosis. Columns and sheets of trophoblastic tissue invade normal tissues and spread to distant sites, the most common of which are lungs, brain, liver, pelvis, vagina, spleen, intestines, and kidney.

Placental-site trophoblastic tumor 

Placental-site trophoblastic disease is an extremely rare tumor arising from the placental implantation site and resembles an exaggerated form of syncytial endometritis. Trophoblastic cells infiltrate the myometrium, and there is vascular invasion. Human placental lactogen is present in the tumor cells, while immunoperoxidase staining for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is positive in only scattered cells, and serum hCG is relatively low.[1]

References:

  1. Lurain JR: Gestational trophoblastic tumors. Semin Surg Oncol 6 (6): 347-53, 1990. 

Stage Information

Hydatidiform Mole

Hydatidiform mole (molar pregnancy) is disease limited to the uterine cavity.

Invasive mole (chorioadenoma destruens) is a locally invasive, rarely metastatic lesion.

The FIGO staging system is as follows:[1]

  • Stage I: Disease confined to the uterus
    • Stage IA: Disease confined to the uterus with no risk factors.
    • Stage IB: Disease confined to the uterus with one risk factor.
    • Stage IC: Disease confined to the uterus with two risk factors.
     
  • Stage II: Gestational trophoblastic tumor (GTT) extends outside of the uterus but is limited to the genital structures (ovary, tube, vagina, and broad ligament)
    • Stage IIA: GTT involving genital structures without risk factors.
    • Stage IIB: GTT extends outside of the uterus but is limited to genital structures with one risk factor.
    • Stage IIC: GTT extends outside of the uterus but is limited to the genital structures with two risk factors.
     
  • Stage III: GTT extends to the lungs, with or without known genital tract involvement
    • Stage IIIA: GTT extends to the lungs, with or without genital tract involvement and with no risk factors.
    • Stage IIIB: GTT extends to the lungs, with or without genital tract involvement and with one risk factor.
    • Stage IIIC: GTT extends to the lungs, with or without genital tract involvement and with two risk factors.
     
  • Stage IV: All other metastatic sites
    • Stage IVA: All other metastatic sites, without risk factors.
    • Stage IVB: All other metastatic sites, with one risk factor.
    • Stage IVC: All other metastatic sites, with two risk factors.
     

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) has designated staging by TNM classification.[1]

TNM Definitions

Primary tumor (T)

  • TX: Primary tumor cannot be assessed
  • T0: No evidence of primary tumor
  • T1: Disease limited to uterus
  • T2: Disease outside of uterus but is limited to genital structures (ovary, tube, vagina, and broad ligaments)

Distant metastasis (M)

  • M0: No clinical metastasis
  • M1a: Lung metastasis
  • M1b: All other distant metastasis

Risk factors affecting staging include the following:

  1. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) greater than 100,000 IU/24-hour urine.
  2. The detection of disease more than 6 months from termination of the antecedent pregnancy.

AJCC Stage Groupings

Stage IA

  • T1, M0, no risk factors

Stage IB

  • T1, M0, one risk factor

Stage IC

  • T1, M0, two risk factors

Stage IIA

  • T2, M0, no risk factors

Stage IIB

  • T2, M0, one risk factor

Stage IIC

  • T2, M0, two risk factors

Stage IIIA

  • Any T, M1a, no risk factors

Stage IIIB

  • Any T, M1a, one risk factor

Stage IIIC

  • Any T, M1a, two risk factors

Stage IVA

  • Any T, M1b, no risk factors

Stage IVB

  • Any T, M1b, one risk factor

Stage IVC

  • Any T, M1b, two risk factors

Most major U.S. Trophoblastic Disease Centers have used a clinical classification system based on prognostic groups to determine treatment and report results. In the staging system below, GTT is divided into metastatic and nonmetastatic, with the former further divided into low-risk and high-risk based on:[2][3]

  1. Duration of disease.
  2. Presence or absence of liver or brain metastasis.
  3. The hCG titer level.
  4. Presence or absence of prior chemotherapy.
  5. Occurrence after a full-term pregnancy.

Nonmetastatic GTTs

Nonmetastatic GTT is defined as no disease outside the uterus. A diagnosis of nonmetastatic trophoblastic disease is made when there are persistently elevated hCG titers or a tissue diagnosis of uterine choriocarcinoma in the absence of detectable metastatic disease. One criterion used to make the diagnosis relates tumor load to the length of the hCG plateau.[4]

Good-Prognosis Metastatic GTTs

Indicated by the following factors:

  1. Last pregnancy less than 4 months ago.
  2. A low hCG titer (<100,000 IU [24-hour urine] or <40,000 mIU/mL blood).
  3. No liver or brain metastases.
  4. No prior chemotherapy.

Poor-Prognosis Metastatic GTTs

Indicated by any of the following factors:

  1. Last pregnancy more than 4 months ago.
  2. A high hCG titer (>100,000 IU [24-hour urine] or >40,000 mIU/mL blood).
  3. Liver or brain metastases.
  4. Prior chemotherapy.
  5. Occurrence after a full-term pregnancy.

Metastatic GTTs are also categorized by the WHO scoring system as low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk.[5] This scoring system has been suggested for use in identifying the especially (“ultra”) high-risk patient who is best treated by the most dose-intensive and efficacious combination chemotherapy protocol. The WHO scoring system based on prognostic factors is listed below. The individual scores for each prognostic factor are added together to obtain a total score.[6] A total score less than or equal to four is considered low risk, a total score of five to seven is considered middle risk, and a total score of eight or greater is considered high risk. A study also examined the use of the WHO scoring system for reporting results of treatment; the results suggested that risk categories be redefined as low (<8), medium (8–12), and high (>12). Failure of treatment was limited to patients in the latter group.[7]

Prognostic Factors Based on the WHO Scoring System

Prognostic Factor

Score

Age 

<39

0

>39

1

Antecedent pregnancy 

hydatidiform mole

0

abortion

1

term

2

Interval between end of antecedent pregnancy and start of chemotherapy 

<4 mo

0

4–6 mo

1

7–12 mo

2

>12 mo

4

hCG (IU/mL) 

<1000

0

1,000–10,000

1

10,000–100,000

2

>100,000

4

ABO groups (female × male) 

O × A or A × O

1

B or AB

2

Largest tumor, including uterine 

3–5 cm

1

>5 cm

2

Site of metastases 

spleen, kidney

1

gastrointestinal tract or liver

2

brain

4

Number of metastases identified 

1–4

1

4–8

2

>8

4

Prior chemotherapy 

single drug

2

2 or more drugs

4

References:

  1. Gestational trophoblastic tumors. In: American Joint Committee on Cancer.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1997, pp 211-214. 

  2. Lurain JR: Gestational trophoblastic tumors. Semin Surg Oncol 6 (6): 347-53, 1990. 

  3. Bagshawe KD: Risk and prognostic factors in trophoblastic neoplasia. Cancer 38 (3): 1373-85, 1976. 

  4. Kohorn EI: Evaluation of the criteria used to make the diagnosis of nonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. Gynecol Oncol 48 (2): 139-47, 1993. 

  5. World Health Organization Scientific Group.: Gestational trophoblastic diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1983. 

  6. Tumors of the placental trophoblast. In: Morrow CP, Curtin JP: Synopsis of Gynecologic Oncology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp 315-353. 

  7. Dubuc-Lissoir J, Sweizig S, Schlaerth JB, et al.: Metastatic gestational trophoblastic disease: a comparison of prognostic classification systems. Gynecol Oncol 45 (1): 40-5, 1992. 

Treatment Option Overview

Treatment depends on the:

  • Cell type.
  • Stage.
  • Level of serum Beta-human chorionic gonadotrophin (BhCG).
  • Duration of the disease.
  • Specific sites of metastasis.
  • Extent of prior treatment.

Of utmost importance in treating patients with gestational trophoblastic tumors is instituting therapy as quickly as possible and continuing chemotherapy at very close intervals until normal BhCG titers are obtained. The interval between courses should rarely exceed 14 to 21 days depending on the treatment. It is recommended that patients receive one to three courses of chemotherapy after the first normal BhCG titer, depending on the extent of disease. Regardless of stage, if one of the high-risk factors is present, the patient should be treated with combination chemotherapy.

Hydatidiform Mole

Hydatidiform mole (molar pregnancy) is 100% curable. The selection of treatment is based on the desire to preserve reproductive capability.

Standard treatment options: 

  1. Removal of the hydatidiform mole (dilation, suction evacuation, and curettage).
  2. Removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). Only in rare situations do the ovaries require removal.

Following this initial treatment, patients should be monitored with determination of serum BhCG to document its return to normal. Follow-up with a urinary pregnancy test is inadequate, and a sensitive radioimmunoassay is mandatory. Chemotherapy is necessary when there is:

  1. A rising BhCG titer for 2 weeks (3 titers).
  2. A tissue diagnosis of choriocarcinoma.
  3. A plateau of the BhCG for 3 weeks.
  4. Metastatic disease (good prognosis).
  5. An elevation in BhCG after a normal value.
  6. Postevacuation hemorrhage not caused by retained tissues.

Chemotherapy is required in only 20% of patients after evacuation of a molar pregnancy. Chemotherapy is the same as for nonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withhydatidiform mole. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

Placental-Site Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Hysterectomy is the treatment of choice for patients with placental-site trophoblastic tumors. Although most reports have noted a benign course for these tumors, they are relatively resistant to chemotherapy and can be fatal.[1]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withplacental-site gestational trophoblastic tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

References:

  1. Lurain JR: Gestational trophoblastic tumors. Semin Surg Oncol 6 (6): 347-53, 1990. 

Nonmetastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

This is the most common presentation of gestational trophoblastic tumors and usually requires treatment with cytotoxic therapy, primarily single agents.

Standard treatment options: 

Treatment usually consists of single-agent chemotherapy though hysterectomy has been used in the occasional patient where preservation of reproductive function is not an issue. Single-agent chemotherapy is usually methotrexate unless the patient has abnormal liver function, in which case dactinomycin is used.

  1. Methotrexate with leucovorin.[1]
  2. Dactinomycin.[2]

Other regimens appear to produce similar survival outcomes but have been studied less extensively or are in less common use. They are:

  1. Methotrexate.[2][3][4]
  2. Etoposide.[5]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withnonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

References:

  1. Berkowitz RS, Goldstein DP, Bernstein MR: Ten year's experience with methotrexate and folinic acid as primary therapy for gestational trophoblastic disease. Gynecol Oncol 23 (1): 111-8, 1986. 

  2. Tumors of the placental trophoblast. In: Morrow CP, Curtin JP: Synopsis of Gynecologic Oncology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp 315-353. 

  3. Homesley HD, Blessing JA, Rettenmaier M, et al.: Weekly intramuscular methotrexate for nonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic disease. Obstet Gynecol 72 (3 Pt 1): 413-8, 1988. 

  4. Homesley HD, Blessing JA, Schlaerth J, et al.: Rapid escalation of weekly intramuscular methotrexate for nonmetastatic gestational trophoblastic disease: a Gynecologic Oncology Group study. Gynecol Oncol 39 (3): 305-8, 1990. 

  5. Wong LC, Choo YC, Ma HK: Primary oral etoposide therapy in gestational trophoblastic disease. An update. Cancer 58 (1): 14-7, 1986. 

Good-Prognosis Metastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

This group of patients has disease outside the uterus, but it does not have any of the adverse prognostic factors detailed in stage information. In general, these patients should be treated with single-agent chemotherapy as described for nonmetastatic disease. Patients who do not tolerate methotrexate or who become resistant to it can often be salvaged with dactinomycin. Development of intercurrent poor-risk factors dictates the need for combination chemotherapy. Cure rates should approach 100%, but approximately 40% to 50% of these patients will develop resistance to the first chemotherapeutic agent and require alternate treatment. Careful monitoring is mandatory.

Standard treatment options: 

  1. Methotrexate with leucovorin.[1]
  2. Dactinomycin. Tumors of the placental trophoblast.
  3. Primary hysterectomy followed by single-agent chemotherapy with methotrexate or dactinomycin (if patient has completed family).
  4. Primary chemotherapy followed by secondary hysterectomy for persistent uterine disease (must verify that metastatic disease has totally regressed).
  5. For refractory disease:
    • MAC: methotrexate plus dactinomycin plus chlorambucil.[2]
     

Other regimens appear to produce similar survival outcomes but have been studied less extensively or are in less common use. They are:

  1. Methotrexate.[2]
  2. EMA-CO: etoposide plus methotrexate plus dactinomycin and vincristine plus cyclophosphamide.[3]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withgood prognosis metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

References:

  1. Berkowitz RS, Goldstein DP, Bernstein MR: Ten year's experience with methotrexate and folinic acid as primary therapy for gestational trophoblastic disease. Gynecol Oncol 23 (1): 111-8, 1986. 

  2. Tumors of the placental trophoblast. In: Morrow CP, Curtin JP: Synopsis of Gynecologic Oncology. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp 315-353. 

  3. Bagshawe KD: High-risk metastatic trophoblastic disease. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 15 (3): 531-43, 1988. 

Poor-Prognosis Metastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Patients with any of the high-risk factors fall into this category. Patients with a WHO score greater than eight are considered to be especially (“ultra”) high-risk. Therapy needs to be instituted quickly and should consist of multiple-agent chemotherapy. Additional therapy (including radiation to central nervous system metastases and adjuvant surgery) is often necessary. These patients should be treated at a regional Trophoblastic Disease Center or by a physician with prior experience in treating poor-risk patients. Radiation to liver metastasis is contraindicated since it has no clear value and leads to myelosuppression that may make administration of cytotoxic chemotherapy more difficult.

Standard treatment options: 

For patients with a WHO prognostic score less than eight: 

  • EMA-CO: etoposide plus methotrexate plus dactinomycin and vincristine plus cyclophosphamide.[1][2][3] A dose-intensive regimen, EMA-CE, in which etoposide and cisplatin are substituted for vincristine and cyclophosphamide of the EMA-CO regimen, may offer additional benefits.[4]

For patients with a WHO prognostic score greater than eight: 

  • EMA-CO.[1] A dose-intensive regimen, EMA-CE, may offer additional benefits.[4]

Other regimens that may produce similar outcome but have been studied less extensively or are in less common use include:

  • APE: dactinomycin plus cisplatin plus etoposide. [5]
  • PVB: cisplatin plus vinblastine plus bleomycin. [6]
  • PEBA: cisplatin plus etoposide plus bleomycin plus adriamycin. [7]
  • Ifosfamide plus carboplatin plus etoposide with autologous bone marrow transplant. [8]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withpoor prognosis metastatic gestational trophoblastic tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

References:

  1. Soper JT, Evans AC, Clarke-Pearson DL, et al.: Alternating weekly chemotherapy with etoposide-methotrexate-dactinomycin/cyclophosphamide-vincristine for high-risk gestational trophoblastic disease. Obstet Gynecol 83 (1): 113-7, 1994. 

  2. Newlands ES, Bagshawe KD, Begent RH, et al.: Results with the EMA/CO (etoposide, methotrexate, actinomycin D, cyclophosphamide, vincristine) regimen in high risk gestational trophoblastic tumours, 1979 to 1989. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 98 (6): 550-7, 1991. 

  3. Bower M, Newlands ES, Holden L, et al.: EMA/CO for high-risk gestational trophoblastic tumors: results from a cohort of 272 patients. J Clin Oncol 15 (7): 2636-43, 1997. 

  4. Surwit EA, Childers JM: High-risk metastatic gestational trophoblastic disease. A new dose-intensive, multiagent chemotherapeutic regimen. J Reprod Med 36 (1): 45-8, 1991. 

  5. Theodore C, Azab M, Droz JP, et al.: Treatment of high-risk gestational trophoblastic disease with chemotherapy combinations containing cisplatin and etoposide. Cancer 64 (9): 1824-8, 1989. 

  6. Azab M, Droz JP, Theodore C, et al.: Cisplatin, vinblastine, and bleomycin combination in the treatment of resistant high-risk gestational trophoblastic tumors. Cancer 64 (9): 1829-32, 1989. 

  7. Chen LP, Cai SM, Fan JX, et al.: PEBA regimen (cisplatin, etoposide, bleomycin, and adriamycin) in the treatment of drug-resistant choriocarcinoma. Gynecol Oncol 56 (2): 231-4, 1995. 

  8. Lotz JP, André T, Donsimoni R, et al.: High dose chemotherapy with ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide combined with autologous bone marrow transplantation for the treatment of poor-prognosis germ cell tumors and metastatic trophoblastic disease in adults. Cancer 75 (3): 874-85, 1995. 

Recurrent Gestational Trophoblastic Tumors

Recurrent disease indicates failure of prior chemotherapy unless initial therapy was surgery alone. A study found recurrence of disease in 2.5% of patients with nonmetastatic disease, 3.7% of patients with good-prognosis metastatic disease, and 13% of patients with poor-prognosis metastatic disease.[1] All recurrences were within 36 months of remission (85% before 18 months). Prior chemotherapy failure automatically places the patient into the high-risk (poor prognosis) category. These patients should be treated with aggressive chemotherapy. For resistant high-risk gestational trophoblastic tumors (GTTs), combinations of etoposide, cisplatin, and either dactinomycin or bleomycin have shown promising results.[2][3] A patient who has failed primary surgical therapy is generally treated with single-agent chemotherapy unless one of the poor-prognosis factors that requires combination chemotherapy supervenes.

A select group of patients with chemotherapy-resistant and clinically detectable GTT may benefit from salvage surgery.[4]

When central nervous system metastases are identified, whole brain radiation therapy (30 Gy in 2 Gy fractions) is given simultaneously with the initiation of systemic chemotherapy. Approximately 50% to 60% of patients will achieve sustained remission using this treatment approach. The outcome for women presenting with hepatic metastases from GTT disease is poor with an even worse prognosis if cerebral metastases are also present.[5][6] Chemotherapy with ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide may be considered for patients with recurrent GTTs metastatic to the brain.[7]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients withrecurrent gestational trophoblastic tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from theNCI Web site.

References:

  1. Mutch DG, Soper JT, Babcock CJ, et al.: Recurrent gestational trophoblastic disease. Experience of the Southeastern Regional Trophoblastic Disease Center. Cancer 66 (5): 978-82, 1990. 

  2. Theodore C, Azab M, Droz JP, et al.: Treatment of high-risk gestational trophoblastic disease with chemotherapy combinations containing cisplatin and etoposide. Cancer 64 (9): 1824-8, 1989. 

  3. Surwit EA: Management of high-risk gestational trophoblastic disease. J Reprod Med 32 (9): 657-62, 1987. 

  4. Lehman E, Gershenson DM, Burke TW, et al.: Salvage surgery for chemorefractory gestational trophoblastic disease. J Clin Oncol 12 (12): 2737-42, 1994. 

  5. Small W Jr, Lurain JR, Shetty RM, et al.: Gestational trophoblastic disease metastatic to the brain. Radiology 200 (1): 277-80, 1996. 

  6. Crawford RA, Newlands E, Rustin GJ, et al.: Gestational trophoblastic disease with liver metastases: the Charing Cross experience. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 104 (1): 105-9, 1997. 

  7. Piamsomboon S, Kudelka AP, Termrungruanglert W, et al.: Remission of refractory gestational trophoblastic disease in the brain with ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide (ICE): first report and review of literature. Eur J Gynaecol Oncol 18 (6): 453-6, 1997. 

More Information

About PDQ 

Additional PDQ Summaries 

Important: 

This information is intended mainly for use by doctors and other health care professionals. If you have questions about this topic, you can ask your doctor, or call the Cancer Information Service at1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).


This information is provided by the National Cancer Institute.

This information was last updated on December 5, 2007.

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