Larynx preservation with combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy in advanced but resectable head and neck cancer
Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
Forty patients with advanced, resectable squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx, oropharynx, or hypopharynx whose surgery would have required total laryngectomy (TL), were treated with one to three cycles of cisplatin-based chemotherapy before local therapy with the goal of larynx preservation. Clinical complete responses (CRs) or partial responses (PRs) to chemotherapy were seen in 26 of 40 patients (65%). Three patients with primary-site disease unresponsive to chemotherapy underwent resection of the primary lesion and neck dissection followed by radiation therapy (RT). Thirty-seven patients were referred after chemotherapy for RT +/- neck dissection. Thirty-one of 40 patient (78%) were rendered disease-free (no evidence of disease [NED]). With a median follow-up of 49 months (range, 31 to 76), the overall actuarial survival rate for the group was 58% at 2 years and 33% at 5 years. The failure-free survival rate was 42% and 33% at 2 and 5 years, respectively. Seven patients refused recommended TL throughout their course. This may have adversely affected survival results. A greater proportion of patients who achieved a CR or PR to chemotherapy remained disease-free compared with those who achieved less than a PR (P less than .001). Sixteen patients relapsed, 10 with locoregional disease. Six patients underwent TL, either for initial induction failure or at relapse, for an actual larynx-preservation rate of 34 of 40 patients (85%). If the seven patients who refused TL are included, the anticipated preservation rate is 27 of 40 patients (68%). Larynx preservation with combined chemotherapy and radiation is feasible and effective in patients with advanced, resectable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCHN). This treatment approach requires a motivated patient, careful patient monitoring, and close interdisciplinary cooperation among oncologists.