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Advanced head and neck cancer patients treated with radiation therapy plus the chemotherapy drug cisplatin had more positive outcomes than patients treated with radiation therapy alone and continued to show positive results 10 years post-treatment, according to a study presented at the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium.
Researchers analysed two subgroups totalling 410 patients who had advanced head and neck cancer and received radiation therapy or radiation therapy plus cisplatin.
Those who had microscopically involved resection margins and/or extracapsular spread of disease showed improved local-regional control with radiation and chemotherapy.
At 10 years post-treatment, the local-regional failure rates were 33.1% and 27.1%, respectively.
Disease free survival for radiation therapy only patients was 12.3% compared to 18.4% for those treated with radiation plus cisplatin and overall survival was 19.6% and 27.1%, respectively.
In contrast, patients who were enrolled in the study solely because they had tumours involving multiple lymph nodes did not benefit from receiving radiation therapy and chemotherapy concurrently.
“This is good news,” said lead author Jay Cooper, Director of the Maimonides Cancer Centre in Brooklyn.
“We now can eradicate some advanced head and neck tumours 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.”