Docetaxel Improves Survival in Head and Neck Cancer

Two studies compare standard induction chemotherapy with and without docetaxel

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The addition of docetaxel to standard cisplatin and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy regimens leads to improved disease-free and overall survival, according to two phase 3 randomized trials published in the Oct. 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the first study, Marshall R. Posner, M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and colleagues randomized 501 patients with locally advanced squamous-cell head and neck cancer to receive docetaxel plus cisplatin and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy or cisplatin and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy, followed by chemoradiotherapy. Patients receiving docetaxel had improved survival over those not receiving docetaxel (median survival 71 months versus 30 months).

In the second study, Jan B. Vermorken, M.D., Ph.D., of the Universitair Ziekenhuis Antwerpen in Edegem, Belgium, and colleagues randomized 358 patients with unresectable head and neck cancer but no distant metastases to receive docetaxel plus cisplatin and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy or standard cisplatin and fluorouracil induction chemotherapy. Those receiving docetaxel had improved progression-free survival compared to those receiving standard induction chemotherapy (11 months versus 8.2 months). Overall survival was also improved in the docetaxel group (18.8 months versus 14.5 months).

"The results of both phase 3 induction trials support the conclusion that docetaxel plus cisplatin and fluorouracil combinations are appropriate for induction chemotherapy," write the authors of the first study.

Both studies were supported by grants from Sanofi-Aventis.

Abstract - Posner
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Abstract - Vermorken
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