Radiation therapy with concomitant hydroxyurea and fluorouracil in stage II and III head and neck cancer

J Clin Oncol. 1999 Feb;17(2):638-44. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1999.17.2.638.


Purpose: In 1986, a multi-institutional phase II trial was begun to study the use of chemotherapy with concomitant radiation in patients with stage II and III head and neck cancer. End points were overall survival, progression-free survival, local/regional control, and toxicity in the setting of organ preservation with concomitant treatment.

Methods: Eligible patients with stage II or III disease received chemotherapy and radiation on a 2-week cycle. Chemotherapy consisted of continuous infusion fluorouracil (5-FU) at 800 mg/m2/d for 5 consecutive days (days 1 to 5) and hydroxyurea (HU) at 1 g orally every 12 hours for 13 doses starting the evening before the start of irradiation. Radiation therapy was given as single 1.8- to 2.0-Gy fractions for 5 consecutive days (days 1 to 5) with chemotherapy. Each 5 days of treatment was followed by a 9-day break (days 6 to 14), during which no additional treatment was given. Treatment cycles were repeated until the completion of the planned radiation dose (six to eight cycles).

Results: Between 1989 and 1996, 60 patients were enrolled. All patients were eligible for analysis, with a median follow-up of 52 months for surviving patients and 42 months for all patients. Grade 3 to 4 mucositis occurred in 57% of patients. The 5 year-actuarial overall survival, progression-free survival, and local/regional control were 65%, 82%, and 86%, respectively. Eight patients developed local and/or regional recurrence after treatment. Surgical salvage was possible in three of these patients. Thus, the ultimate 5-year local/ regional control was 91%.

Conclusion: Concomitant radiation and chemotherapy with 5-FU and HU is an effective regimen in patients with stage II and III head and neck cancer. Progression-free survival and local/regional control appear to be superior to expected rates in patients treated with surgery and radiation. Further testing of this regimen in a phase III setting is indicated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / administration & dosage
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Regression Analysis


  • Fluorouracil
  • Hydroxyurea