COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Inferior outcomes in immunosuppressed patients with high-risk cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with surgery and radiation therapy.

BACKGROUND: Immunosuppressed patients have higher rates of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

OBJECTIVE: This study reviews the effect of immune status on disease characteristics and treatment outcomes.

METHODS: Patients with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with surgery and postoperative radiotherapy between 2000 and 2011 were included. Immunosuppressed patients underwent prior organ transplantation or chemotherapy. Baseline variables were compared using χ(2) and unpaired t tests. Overall survival and disease-free survival were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

RESULTS: In this study of 59 patients, 38 (64%) were immunocompetent and 21 (36%) were immunosuppressed. Most patients had recurrent tumors (63%) and node-positive disease (61%), which were well balanced between the groups. Poorly differentiated tumors (62% vs 21%; P = .009), lymphovascular invasion (29% vs 11%; P = .08), and extracapsular extension (57% vs 41%; P = .09) were more frequent in the immunosuppressed group. Two-year disease-free survival (45% vs 62%) and 2-year overall survival (36% vs 67%) were inferior for immunosuppressed patients.

LIMITATIONS: Limitations include single institution, retrospective study with small sample size, and potential referral bias.

CONCLUSIONS: Immunosuppressed patients with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck more frequently present with high-risk pathologic features and inferior outcomes. Early multidisciplinary assessment and alternate management strategies merit prospective investigation.

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