Among patients with Stage II nasopharyngeal cancer (a type of head and neck cancer), adding chemotherapy to radiation therapy resulted in better survival than radiation therapy alone. These results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The nasopharynx is the area above the soft palate (roof of the mouth) and behind the nose. Nasopharyngeal cancer tends to be more common in people of Chinese or other Asian ancestry, and has been linked with infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.
Treatment with radiation therapy and chemotherapy given concurrently (at the same time) has been shown to be effective among patients with advanced (Stage III or Stage IV) nasopharyngeal cancer, but less is known about the effectiveness of this approach among people with earlier-stage nasopharyngeal cancer.
To evaluate concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy among patients with Stage II nasopharyngeal cancer, researchers in Chinaconducted a Phase III clinical trial. The study enrolled 230 patients; half were treated with radiation therapy alone and half were treated with concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Five-year overall survival was 94.5 percent among patients treated with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, compared with 85.8 percent among patients treated with radiation therapy alone.
- Five-year survival without a worsening of the cancer was 87.9 percent among patients treated with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, compared with 77.8 percent among patients treated with radiation therapy alone.
- Side effects were more common in the combined treatment group.
These results suggest that combined treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy results in better survival than radiation therapy alone among patients with Stage II nasopharyngeal cancer.
 National Cancer Institute. Nasopharyngeal Cancer (PDQ®). Patient version. Last modified 12/05/2011
 Chen Q-Y, Wen Y-F, Guo L et al. Concurrent chemoradiotherapy vs radiotherapy alone in stage II nasopharyngeal carcinoma: Phase III randomized trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2011;103:1761-1770.