According to an article recently published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics, treatment for locally advanced head and neck cancer that includes Taxotere® (docetaxel) plus radiation therapy following initial chemotherapy significantly improves anticancer responses and provides impressive outcomes for patients with Stages III–IV head and neck cancer.
Head and neck cancer originates in sites within the head or neck. The American Cancer Society estimated that 11,000 individuals died from head and neck cancer in the United States in 2005. Overall survival rates for patients with head and neck cancer that has spread from its site of origin remain unfavorable. Researchers continue to evaluate novel therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes for patients with this disease.
Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate a treatment regimen consisting of initial chemotherapy with Platinol® (cisplatin) and 5-fluorouracil, Paraplatin® (carboplatin)/5-fluorouracil, or Taxotere/Platinol/5-fluorouracil. Following this initial (induction) chemotherapy, patients were then treated with a combination of Taxotere four times weekly and radiation therapy. This trial included 30 patients with Stages III–IV head and neck cancer; cancer at this stage has spread from its site of origin to regional sites in the body.
- Following induction chemotherapy, only 20% of patients achieved a complete disappearance of cancer.
- Following Taxotere/radiation therapy, 70% of patients had achieved a complete disappearance of cancer.
- After all planned therapy, 93% were considered to be free of cancer.
- At approximately 42 months follow-up, 70% of patients are alive and free of cancer.
The researchers concluded that induction chemotherapy followed by Taxotere and radiation therapy provides long-term disease-free survival among patients with Stages III–IV head and neck cancer. The authors stated that this treatment provides an alternative regimen to the standard chemotherapy and radiation and surgical approaches for patients who do not achieve a complete disappearance of their cancer with induction chemotherapy.
Patients with head and neck cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of treatment with Taxotere and radiation therapy following induction therapy or the participation in a clinical trial further evaluating this treatment approach or other novel therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.
Reference: Tishler RB, Posner MR, Norris CM, et al. Concurrent weekly docetaxel and concomitant boost radiation therapy in the treatment of locally advanced squamous cell cancer of the head and neck. International
Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics. 2006;65:1036-1044.
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