JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue in young adults: a case series.

Head & Neck 2005 September
BACKGROUND: Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue (SCCOT) in the young population has emerged as a growing worldwide health problem. Standard therapies, consisting primarily of surgery with possible adjuvant radiotherapy, have resulted in only modest improvements in survival in recent decades, whereas the treatments for SCCOT continue to impair oral function. With the increased use and improved functional results of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of other upper aerodigestive tract sites, we have reviewed our experience with neoadjuvant chemotherapy in young patients with SCCOT.

METHODS: A retrospective review was conducted of all patients younger than 45 years (N = 49) with previously untreated SCCOT evaluated at a comprehensive cancer center from July 1995 to August 2001. Charts were reviewed to obtain demographic data, comorbidities, nutritional status, tumor status, treatment and response information, and follow-up data.

RESULTS: Fifteen patients were identified who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy with taxane-based regimens before undergoing glossectomy and neck dissection. Thirteen of these patients (87%) exhibited stage III or IV disease at presentation, and all exhibited at least a partial response at the primary site. Pathologically positive nodes were identified in only six patients (40%), although 13 (87%) had clinically or radiographically suspicious nodes at presentation. Adjuvant radiation therapy was administered to seven patients (47%). With a median follow-up of 39 months, no patient has had local or regional recurrence, although three patients (20%) have had distant metastases develop; one patient with an isolated distant metastasis was successfully salvaged with radiation. By comparison during the same period, 34 young adult patients with SCCOT were treated with surgery with or without postoperative radiotherapy but without the use of chemotherapy. Although these patients had lower T classifications (18% vs 67% T3/T4; p = .0007), incidence of nodal metastases (15% vs 87% N+; p < .0001), and overall disease stage (24% vs 87% stage III/IV; p < .0001) than the neoadjuvant chemotherapy group, the overall survival (82%), disease-specific survival (88%), and recurrence-free survival (82%) of the surgery-first group was similar to that of the neoadjuvant chemotherapy group (87%, 87%, and 80%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: This retrospective investigation demonstrates that neoadjuvant chemotherapy with taxane-based regimens may play a role in the successful treatment of SCCOT in young adult patients. Ultimately, this treatment plan may lead to improved functional outcomes in young patients with SCCOT by allowing function-sparing surgery and avoiding postoperative radiotherapy, without sacrificing disease control and survival, but a prospective trial is needed. We have initiated a prospective clinical trial to further investigate the impact of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients younger than 50 with SCCOT.

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