Athanassios Argiris, MD

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Revisiting Induction Chemotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer

May 1st 2005

Squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck are highly responsiveto induction chemotherapy. However, randomized trials have failedto demonstrate a survival advantage with the addition of induction chemotherapyto locoregional therapy consisting of surgery and/or radiationtherapy. Currently, concomitant radiation and chemotherapy hasemerged as a standard and has optimized locoregional control in headand neck cancer. In this setting, the addition of induction chemotherapymay further improve outcome by enhancing both locoregional and distantcontrol. As interest in induction regimens is renewed, we elected toconduct a systematic review of trials of induction chemotherapy forlocoregionally advanced head and neck cancer. The most studied combination-cisplatin plus fluorouracil (5-FU)-achieves objective responserates of about 80%. In a meta-analysis, induction with platinum/5-FU resulted in a small survival advantage over locoregionaltherapy alone. The introduction of a taxane into induction chemotherapyregimens has produced promising results. Induction chemotherapyshould be the subject of further clinical research in head andneck cancer. Randomized clinical trials in which the control arm isconcurrent chemoradiotherapy and the experimental arm is inductionchemotherapy followed by concurrent chemoradiotherapy are planned.Platinum/taxane combinations are the preferred regimens for furtherstudy in the induction setting and a suitable platform with which toinvestigate the addition of novel targeted agents.

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