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Phase II evaluation of paclitaxel in combination with carboplatin in advanced head and neck carcinoma.

Cancer 2001 November 2
BACKGROUND: Two-thirds of patients with squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (SCCHN) at diagnosis have advanced disease with projected 5-year survival rates of 30%. In those patients with distant metastatic or previously treated recurrent disease, response rate to the standard regimen of cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil is approximately 30%. The authors investigated the use of paclitaxel and carboplatin in a limited Phase II study in recurrent or metastatic SCCHN to evaluate tumor response, time to progression, survival, and toxicities of this regimen.

METHODS: Patients with recurrent or metastatic SCCHN not amenable to further surgical or radiation therapy were treated with 200 mg/m(2) by 3-hour infusion of paclitaxel followed by carboplatin at an area under the concentration time curve of 6 mg/mL/minute via a 20-30-minute infusion every 3 weeks.

RESULTS: Thirty-seven patients were enrolled. Ninety-five percent of patients had received prior surgery and postoperative radiotherapy. The overall response rate was 27% (95% confidence interval, 13-41%) with 1 complete and 9 PRs. Median survival of all patients was 4.9 months, and 1-year survival rate was 16%. There was a 43% response rate and 15.7-month median survival rate in patients with only distant metastatic disease and 38% response rate and a 4.5-month median survival in patients with locoregional and metastatic disease. The response rate for patients with only locoregional recurrence was 7% with a median survival of 4.8 months. Grade 3-4 myelotoxicity occurred in 24% of cycles administered. There were two treatment-related deaths due to neutropenic fever and one additional death on study may have been caused by treatment-induced thrombocytopenia.

CONCLUSIONS: The combination of paclitaxel and carboplatin is significantly myelotoxic and ineffective in patients with previously treated locoregionally recurrent SCCHN, whereas it deserves further evaluation in those patients with distant metastatic disease alone. In those patients with locoregional disease, other more innovative treatments are needed.

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