Combined surgery and postoperative radiotherapy for carcinoma of the base of tongue: Analysis of treatment outcome and prognostic value of margin status

Mitchell Machtay, Steven Perch, Deborah Markiewicz, Erica Thaler, Ara Chalian, Andrew Goldberg, Morton Kligerman, Gregory Weinstein

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81 Scopus citations


Background. Choice of treatment for base of tongue carcinoma is controversial, with options including surgery alone, radiotherapy alone, or multimodality treatment. Given the highly aggressive nature of these tumors, it has been our institutional policy to manage this disease with combined partial glossectomy (with attempt to avoid laryngectomy if possible) with planned postoperative radiotherapy (RT). We report on our institutional experience with this approach. Methods. A retrospective review of the charts of 17 patients with primary base of tongue squamous cell carcinoma treated with surgery and postoperative RT was performed. Patients treated with chemotherapy as part of their management were excluded. All patients underwent partial, hemi-, or subtotal glossectomy; 15/17 patients underwent ipsilateral radical or modified radical neck dissection. All patients received comprehensive postoperative RT (median dose 6000 cGy; range 5040- 6920 cGy). Stage distribution was as follows: stage 1, 2; stage II, 3; stage III, 2; stage IV, 10. Positive margins for invasive carcinoma were found in 9/17 patients. Median follow-up of surviving patients is 46 months; median follow-up for all patients is 31 months. Results. For the entire group of patients, the actuarial 3-year local-regional control rate was 68%. The actuarial 3-year overall survival was 46%. The local-regional control rate was 83% for patients with stage I-III disease versus 50% for stage IV disease. There were no local failures among eight patients with negative margins (local control 100%) compared with an actuarial local control rate of 36% among patients with positive margins (p = .03). Survival, disease- specific survival, and locoregional control were also highly correlated with margin status (p = .003). Late major complications included 5/17 patients requiring permanent G-tubes and/or tracheostomy to prevent aspiration. Conclusions. Surgery plus postoperative RT is an intensive treatment for carcinoma of the base of tongue which offers high locoregional control in patients in whom negative margins are achieved. Positive margins indicate a high risk of locoregional and systemic failure, and these patients should be considered for innovative clinical trials after surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-499
Number of pages6
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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