RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Docetaxel: an active drug for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

PURPOSE: We conducted a phase II study designed to evaluate the activity, safety, and tolerability of docetaxel (Taxotere: Rhône-Poulenc Rorer Pharmaceuticals Inc, Collegeville, PA) in patients with advanced, incurable, or recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) who had not received prior palliative chemotherapy.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Thirty-one patients with measurable, locoregional, or metastatic SCCHN were treated with docetaxel, administered at a dose of 100 mg/m2 as a 1-hour intravenous (i.v.) infusion once every 21 days on an outpatient basis. All patients were premedicated with dexamethasone, diphenhydramine, and cimetidine. Prophylactic administration of growth factors or antiemetics was not permitted.

RESULTS: Thirty-one patients were treated. Twenty-nine patients were assessable for response and 30 for toxicity. Four of 31 patients (13%) achieved complete response (CR), nine (29%) achieved partial response had stable disease (SD) and seven (23%) experienced progression of disease (PD). The major response rate was 42% (95% confidence interval [CI], 24% to 60%). The median duration of responses was 5 months (range, 2 to 14). The principal toxicity was leukopenia, which occurred with rapid onset and brief duration. Sixteen patients (53%) experienced nadir fever, and 13 required dose reduction. Hypersensitivity reactions occurred in four patients. Grade 3 peripheral neuropathy occurred in two patients; grade 2 or 3 fatigue occurred in six (20%) and 10 (33%), respectively. Minimal edema (grade 1) occurred in five patients (17%). Clinically significant mucositis, diarrhea, or dermatitis were not observed.

CONCLUSION: Docetaxel has major activity against SCCHN. It appears to be well tolerated in this group of patients and can be safely administered on an outpatient basis. Premedication with dexamethasone, cimetidine, and diphenhydramine is associated with a reduced incidence of significant edema, hypersensitivity reactions, and dermatologic toxicities.

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