Biochemoprevention for dysplastic lesions of the upper aerodigestive tract

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999 Oct;125(10):1083-9. doi: 10.1001/archotol.125.10.1083.


Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and secondarily the toxic effects of biochemopreventive therapy (high-dose isotretinoin [13-cis-retinoic acid], alpha-tocopherol, and interferon alfa) in the reversal of advanced premalignant lesions of the upper aerodigestive tract and to correlate the therapeutic events with modulation of biomarkers.

Design: Prospective, nonrandomized chemoprevention trial.

Setting: Tertiary cancer care referral center and ambulatory care.

Participants: Thirty-six patients with advanced premalignant lesions of the upper aerodigestive tract, without cancer during the 2 years before the intervention, with evaluable lesions, and without retinoid therapy for 3 months before the trial.

Intervention: Administration of oral isotretinoin (100 mg/m2 per day), oral alpha-tocopherol (1200 IU/d), and subcutaneous interferon alfa (3 megaunits per square meter twice weekly) for 12 months, with serial biopsies and clinical examination at 0, 6, 12, and 18 months from study start.

Main outcome measures: Clinical and histologic responses to the intervention.

Results: Of the 36 patients, evaluation was possible in 30 for response at 6 months and in 21 at 12 months. At 6 months, there were 10 pathologic complete responses and 7 partial responses; at 12 months, 7 complete and 3 partial responses. A striking difference in response was observed in favor of laryngeal lesions (9/19 [47%] complete response rate at 6 months and 7/14 [50%] at 12 months vs 1/11 [9%] and 0/7 [0%], respectively, for oral lesions). Toxic effects were acceptable and did not exceed grade 3.

Conclusion: Biochemoprevention is a promising biologic approach for laryngeal dysplasia and needs to be investigated further.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chemoprevention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / administration & dosage
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Isotretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Precancerous Conditions / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Vitamin E
  • Isotretinoin