Combined modalities in the treatment of head and neck cancers

J. Aisner, D. Hiponia, B. Conley, M. Jacobs, W. Gray, Chandra Belani

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19 Scopus citations


The higher the T and N stages at diagnosis of head and neck cancer, the lower the proportion of patients who achieve complete, durable local control and the lower the survival. These cancers and their treatments often produce considerable anatomic distortion, affecting function, nutritional status, and appearance. New treatment approaches for locally and regionally advanced head and neck cancers are thus needed to improve survival, quality of life, or both. Combined-modality approaches show promise. Induction chemotherapy and subsequent radiotherapy produce results equivalent to aggressive surgery but allow for better organ function and speech. Induction chemotherapy and radiotherapy are superior to radiotherapy alone. Concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy may produce additive or synergistic interactions but increase toxicities. Some studies suggest that concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy significantly improves survival over radiotherapy alone in regionally advanced disease. Drug selection criteria have included enhancement of radiation cytotoxicity, effect on cellular kinetics, and, possibly, single-agent antitumor activity. The platinum compounds are of interest, especially in combination with other chemotherapy agents, like 5- fluorouracil and paclitaxel (Taxol; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Princeton, NJ). Concurrent carboplatin and radiotherapy produced a 77-week duration of survival in responders in a University of Maryland Cancer Center study. A study of concurrent carboplatin/bleomycin/radiotherapy had to be halted because of severe bleomycin-induced mucositis. The results in this small group suggest that attenuating mucositis would be desirable. In a subsequent trial, paclitaxel, which shows considerable activity against head and neck cancers, was substituted for bleomycin. Data from the seven patients accrued thus far are too immature to define response. The study continues to accrue patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in oncology
Issue number3 SUPPL. 6
StatePublished - Jul 10 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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