Concomitant chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiation; CRT) is the standard treatment for locoregionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (LA-SCCHN). CRT improves local control and overall survival (OS) when compared to radiotherapy (RT) alone. Induction chemotherapy (IC) reduces the risk of distant metastases (DM) and improves OS by 5% with the use of cisplatin/infusional 5 fluorouracil (PF) in meta-analysis. Adding a taxane to PF in the IC regimen confers a better outcome. Sequential treatment (ST) of IC followed by CRT is therefore under active investigation in multiple phase III trials.
We compared the outcome of two cohorts of patients (pts) with LA-SCCHN treated at our institution with CRT (n = 27) or ST (n = 31), respectively. CRT consisted of GEM 100 mg/m2 weekly + conventional RT (70 Gy); ST consisted of the same CRT preceded by platinum-based IC.
Response to IC: complete 8 (26%), partial 20 (65%), stable 1, progressive 1, not evaluable 1. Median follow up of the surviving pts: for CRT 73 months, for ST 51 months. Median time to distant metastasis (TDM) was for CRT 23.6 months, for ST not reached. Median OS was for CRT 20.2 months, for ST 40.2 months. Cox regression analysis, taking into account age, T and N stage and tumor site, showed a hazard ratio with ST of 1.190 for time to locoregional failure (p = 0.712), 0.162 for TDM (p = 0.002), and 0.441 for overall survival (OS) (p = 0.026).
TDM and OS were found significantly longer in the ST cohort without a reduced locoregional control. Notwithstanding the limitations of a non-randomized single-center comparison, the results are in line with very preliminary data of randomized comparisons suggesting an improved outcome with ST.