According to a study appearing in the latest issue of Archives of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, an injectable gel that contains a combination of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin and epinephrine (adrenaline) is effective in treating head and neck cancers.
Led by Dr. Barry L. Wenig of Northwestern Medical School, the researchers injected the cisplatin/epinephrine gel directly into tumors of people with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
About 40,000 Americans and 600,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with such cancers each year.
In the study, 119 people were given the cisplatin/epinephrine injections up to six times a week over eight weeks, while 59 others got a placebo gel. The patients were evaluated weekly for four weeks after treatment and monthly after that.
The researchers found that tumors responded to treatment in 35 (29 percent) of the people receiving the cisplatin/epinephrine gel injections. Of those, 23 had complete responses compared to 2 percent of the people receiving the placebo gel.
The study says 27 percent of the people in the treatment group, compared to 12 percent of those in the placebo group, met their treatment goals. Those included improved pain control, improved wound care, relief of symptoms and better physical appearance.
The authors say that cisplatin given intravenously is a potent treatment for such cancers. But given that way, cisplatin affects the entire body and can have serious adverse side effects.
"Therapeutic options for advanced HNSCC are limited. These patients generally have undergone extensive surgery, have received near-maximum tolerated does of radiation, and are often poor candidates for aggressive combination therapy," the authors write.
"Therefore, for more effective local and regional control of HNSCC and to minimize systemic exposure and toxicity, locally injectable therapies have been investigated."
This page from the National Cancer Institute helps define the symptoms and severity of the disease.