Concomitant cisplatin/5-FU infusion and radiotherapy in advanced head and neck cancer: 8-Year analysis of results

Samuel G. Taylor IV, Anantha K. Murthy, Katherine L. Griem, Diane C. Recine, Krystyna Kiel, Carol Blendowski, Patricia Bull Hurst, John T. Showel, James C. Hutchinson, Ruth S. Campanella, Shande Chen, David D. Caldarelli

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Background. The purpose of this study was to analyze long-term follow- up of a single institution's experience with a regimen of concomitant cisplatin/fluorouracil (5-FU) infusion and radiation given every other week. This analysis was stimulated by results of a randomized trial showing superiority for this regimen over induction cisplatin/5-FU chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, especially in regional disease control. Methods. All patients with stage III/IV disease who were referred by surgeons for nonoperative therapy and had a follow-up of at least 2 years were included. Concomitant chemoradiotherapy was administered days 1-5 of a 2-week treatment cycle, for a total of 7 cycles, with cisplatin 60 mg/m2 day 1, 5-FU 800 mg/m2 given over 24 hours days 1-5, and radiation 2 Gy days 1-5. Results. Seventy-eight patients with stage III (n = 16) or IV (n = 62) were treated and followed for a median of 8 years. Six patients died during treatment, of aspiration pneumonia, sudden death, gastrointestinal bleeding, and stroke. When assessed 6 weeks alter the end of treatment, 45 patients (63%) had no clinical evidence of disease, whereas 27 (37%) still had some persistent abnormality. However, 17 of these 'partial responders' have not recurred. In all, 24 patients (31%) have recurred or progressed, 13 at the primary site, 5 after 3 years. None of 16 stage III and 24 (39%) of 62 stage IV patients ever progressed. Tongue and glottic larynx did best, with only 1 of 22 patients ever failing (none locally). Supraglottic and oral cavity cancers other than tongue had the worst failure rates. Nineteen patients (24%) died of other causes (DOC), tumor-free. Patients who DOC correlated strongly with T stage (p < .002) but not with N stage or with AJC stage. The 5-year progression- free survival was 60% (confidence interval [CI] = 49% to 72%), and overall survival was 43% (CI = 33% to 56%). Conclusions. Disease control for this advanced head and neck cancer population was excellent. This regimen was especially effective in advanced tongue and glottic cancers and all stage III disease sites. Advanced supraglottic and hypopharynx cancers are problematic. These, and especially T4 lesions, are associated with high DOC rates, possibly in part related to swallowing malfunction. Nevertheless, the long- term survival without surgical intervention was high with this regimen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-691
Number of pages8
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1997


  • 5-Fluorouracil
  • Chemotherapy
  • Head and neck neoplasm
  • Nonoperative management
  • Radiotherapy


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