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The treatment combination consisting of ifosfamide, cisplatin and retinoic acid produces anti-cancer responses in patients with recurrent head and neck cancer, according to a recent article published in the journal Cancer.

Head and neck cancer refers to a number of cancers that may occur in the tongue, mouth, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus and other sites located in the head and neck area. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, biological therapy and/or chemotherapy, depending on the specific type, location and stage (extent of disease at diagnosis) of the cancer. Locally advanced head and neck cancer refers to cancer that has spread from its site of origin to nearby sites in the body, including lymph nodes. Metastatic head and neck cancer refers to cancer that has spread to distant sites in the body, often including vital organs. Patients with head and neck cancer that has spread outside its original site or has recurred following initial therapy have suboptimal outcomes. Research efforts are focused on investigating novel therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes and minimize side effects for patients with this disease.

Researchers from Italy recently conducted a clinical trial evaluating a treatment regimen including the chemotherapy agents ifosfamide and cisplatin combined with a vitamin-A derivative called retinoic acid. Results from previous clinical trials have indicated that retinoic acid has been shown to have anti-cancer effects in head and neck cancer. Patients in this trial had either locally advanced, metastatic or recurrent head and neck cancer of squamous cell origin. Anti-cancer responses were achieved in 72% of patients. The average time to cancer progression was 10.4 months and overall survival was nearly 13 months. Neutropenia (low white blood cell counts) was the most common side effect.

These results indicate that the combination of ifosfamide, cisplatin and retinoic acid is effective at producing anti-cancer responses in patients with advanced head and neck cancer. This is encouraging as patients with this stage of disease have suboptimal long-term outcomes following standard care. Patients with head and neck cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of this treatment combination or the participation in a clinical trial evaluating other promising strategies.

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