Eradicating Some Advanced Head and Neck Cancers

Oral cancer treatment improved when radiation added to chemo

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Every type of cancer has different characteristics, and routine studies constantly attempt to find the best treatment for a given group of patients. A recent study shows evidence that combination therapy may be best for some cancer patients.

In a 10-year follow up analysis of a study looking at cancers of the head and neck, the squamous cell carcinoma high risk group was treated most effectively with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, instead of radiation alone. 

For those patients, combination therapy fared better across the board - they experienced lower treatment failure rates and lived longer without disease, than patients who received radiation alone.

"Ask your doctor about supplementing your chemotherapy with radiation."

The partnership of several cancer centers was led by Jay Cooper, M.D., from Maimonides in Brooklyn. Researchers found that advanced cancers of the head and neck clearly benefited from adding radiation therapy to a course of cisplatin chemotherapy.

Summarizing his findings, Dr. Cooper said, “We now can eradicate some advanced head and neck tumors that we couldn’t before by adding chemotherapy to radiation therapy. At the same time, we can spare other patients who would not do better with the addition of chemotherapy from its side effects.”

Dr. Cooper and his team looked at 410 patients with advanced head and neck cancer, with one group receiving radiation therapy alone and the other combining radiation along with cisplatin.

Ten years after treatment, treatment failure rates were 33.1 percent. Disease free survival for radiation alone was 12 percent, compared to 18 percent for combination therapy.

An important footnote from the study was that patients whose cancer had spread to multiple lymph nodes did not show any improvement between the two treatments.

One of the authors of the study, S.B. Saxman, was noted as being currently employed by Eli Lilly USA.

The research was presented at the annual Head and Neck Cancer Symposium. These results are considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
March 12, 2012
Last Updated:
March 15, 2012