Low-Dose Isotretinoin Does Not Prevent Head, Neck Tumors

Drug has no impact on second primary tumors

WEDNESDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Despite encouraging results from using high doses of the synthetic vitamin A derivative isotretinoin to treat patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC), the drug has no impact on reducing the rate of second primary tumors when administered in low doses, according to a study in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Fadlo R. Khuri, M.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study of 1,190 patients who had been treated for stage I or stage II HNSCC and received either low dose (30 mg/day) isotretinoin or placebo for three years. The patients were subsequently monitored for up to four years.

Use of low-dose isotretinoin had no impact on the rate of second primary tumors and did not increase survival. Smokers were 1.6 times as likely to experience a second primary tumor as never smokers and 1.3 times as likely as former smokers. Second primary tumors were detected in the lung (31 percent), oral cavity (17 percent), larynx (8 percent) and pharynx (5 percent).

"The present chapter on translational cancer chemoprevention with retinoid monotherapy in HNSCC closes with this definitive report," the authors write.

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