Disease control, survival, and functional outcome after multimodal treatment for advanced-stage tongue base cancer

James P Malone, Julie A Stephens, John C Grecula, Chris A Rhoades, Bobak A Ghaheri, David E Schuller
Head & Neck 2004, 26 (7): 561-72

BACKGROUND: Surgical resection and postoperative radiation for advanced-stage malignancies of the oral cavity, oropharynx, and hypopharynx result in a dismal overall survival of 38%. Patients with carcinoma of the tongue base frequently have advanced disease at the time of presentation, and combined-modality therapy is usually required to achieve cure. Because of the poor survival rates with advanced malignancies with standard therapy, new and innovative approaches continue to be developed in an attempt to have a greater impact on disease control, patient survival, and functional outcome after therapy. This study examines functional outcome, survival, and disease control in patients receiving an intensified treatment regimen with concomitant chemoradiotherapy, surgery, and intraoperative radiotherapy for previously untreated, resectable, stage III and IV squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the tongue base.

METHODS: Forty patients with previously untreated, resectable, stage III and IV squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue base were treated in one of three sequential phase II intensification regimens (IRs). Treatment consisted of perioperative, hyperfractionated radiotherapy (9.1 Gy) with concurrent cisplatin followed by surgical resection with intraoperative radiotherapy boost (7.5 Gy). Postoperative treatment involved concurrent chemoradiotherapy (40 Gy to the primary site and upper neck and 45 Gy to the supraclavicular areas) with cisplatin with or without paclitaxel. Locoregional and distant disease control, 2-year overall, and disease-specific survival rates were calculated. The Performance Status Scale (PSS) for Head and Neck Cancer Patients was administered to 25 of the surviving patients. The effects of the method of surgical reconstruction, surgery involving the mandible and/or larynx, and early versus advanced T stage on PSS score were evaluated with the Wilcoxon rank-sum test.

RESULTS: Median follow-up in months for IR1, IR2, and IR3 were 83.6, 75.2, and 26.8. The locoregional control rate was 100%, and the rate of distant metastases was 7.5% for all patients. Two-year overall and disease-specific survival rates for the entire study population were 74.7% and 93.6%, respectively. Mean PSS scores by subscales Eating in Public, Understandability of Speech, and Normalcy of Diet were 55 (range, 0-100), 73 (range, 25-100), and 49 (range, 0-100), respectively. PSS scores were significantly higher in patients with primary closure of the surgical defect, no mandibular surgery, and early T-stage lesions.

CONCLUSIONS: Although functional outcome may be decreased by certain surgical interventions and advanced T stage, the high rate of locoregional and distant disease control and excellent 2-year disease-specific survival supports an aggressive treatment regimen for advanced tongue base cancer.

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