Intensive induction chemotherapy and radiation for organ preservation in patients with advanced resectable head and neck carcinoma

Susan G. Urba, Arlene A. Forastiere, Gregory T. Wolf, Ramon M. Esclamado, Patrick W. McLaughlin, Allan F. Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Purpose: We designed a protocol to evaluate the possibility of organ preservation in patients with advanced, resectable carcinoma of the head and neck. The regimen consisted of intensive chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy alone for patients with good response to treatment. The end points of the study were response rate, organ preservation, toxicity, and survival. Patients and Methods: Forty-two eligible patients with carcinoma of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, larynx, and paranasal sinuses were enrolled. Induction chemotherapy consisted of three cycles of mitoguazone, fluorouracil (5-FU), and high-dose continuous infusion cisplatin. Patients who had a complete response to chemotherapy, or whose tumor was downstaged to T1N1, were treated with definitive radiation therapy, to a total dose of 66 to 73.8 Gy. Patients with residual disease greater than T1N1 underwent surgery and postoperative radiation. Results: The overall response rate to chemotherapy was 84%, with a 43% complete response rate, and a 68% complete response rate at the primary tumor site. Sixty-nine percent of patients (29 of 42) were initially spared surgery to the primary tumor site, and four of these patients (14%) required neck dissection only, after radiation therapy. These tumor sites included oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, larynx, and sinuses. Eventually, five of these patients (17%) required salvage surgery and eight patients (28%) had unresectable or metastatic relapses. With a median follow-up duration of 38.5 months, 36% of all patients have had preservation of the primary tumor site and remain disease-free. The median survival duration is 26.8 months. Toxicity was substantial, with a 70% incidence of grade 3 to 4 granulocytopenia and two septic deaths. Conclusion: Organ preservation without apparent compromise of survival was achieved in patients with selected nonlaryngeal sites of head and neck carcinoma. Larger site-specific trials with less toxic regimens conducted in randomized fashion are required to extend these data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)946-953
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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