RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Phase III study comparing cisplatin plus fluorouracil to paclitaxel, cisplatin, and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy followed by chemoradiotherapy in locally advanced head and neck cancer.

PURPOSE: To compare the antitumor activity and toxicity of the two induction chemotherapy treatments of paclitaxel, cisplatin, and fluorouracil (FU; PCF) versus standard cisplatin and FU (CF), both followed by chemoradiotherapy (CRT), in locally advanced head and neck cancer (HNC).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Eligibility criteria included biopsy-proven, previously untreated, stage III or IV locally advanced HNC. Patients received either CF (cisplatin 100 mg/m2 on day 1 plus FU 1000 [corrected] mg/m2 continuous infusion on days 1 through 5) or PCF (paclitaxel 175 mg/m2 on day 1, cisplatin 100 mg/m2 on day 2, and FU 500 mg/m2 continuous infusion on days 2 through 6); both regimens were administered for three cycles every 21 days. Patients with complete response (CR) or partial response of greater than 80% in primary tumor received additional CRT (cisplatin 100 mg/m2 on days 1, 22, and 43 plus 70 Gy).

RESULTS: A total of 382 eligible patients were randomly assigned to CF (n = 193) or PCF (n = 189). The CR rate was 14% in the CF arm v 33% in the PCF arm (P < .001). Median time to treatment failure was 12 months in the CF arm compared with 20 months in the PCF arm (log-rank test, P = .006; Tarone-Ware, P = .003). PCF patients had a trend to longer overall survival (OS; 37 months in CF arm v 43 months in PCF arm; log-rank test, P = .06; Tarone-Ware, P = .03). This difference was more evident in patients with unresectable disease (OS: 26 months in CF arm v 36 months in PCF arm; log-rank test, P = .04; Tarone-Ware, P = .03). CF patients had a higher occurrence of grade 2 to 4 mucositis than PCF patients (53% v 16%, respectively; P < .001).

CONCLUSION: Induction chemotherapy with PCF was better tolerated and resulted in a higher CR rate than CF. However, new trials that compare induction chemotherapy plus CRT versus CRT alone are needed to better define the role of neoadjuvant treatment.

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