This phase II study determined response rate of patients with locally advanced or metastatic head and neck cancer treated with pemetrexed disodium, a new multitargeted antifolate that inhibits thymidylate synthase, dihydrofolate reductase and glycinamide ribonucleotide formyl transferase. 35 patients with local or metastatic relapse of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (31 male, 4 female; median age 53 years) were treated with pemetrexed 500 mg m(2)administered as a 10-minute infusion on day 1 of a 21-day cycle. Patients received 1 to 8 cycles of therapy. 9 patients (26.5%) had an objective response, with a median response duration of 5.6 months (range 2.9-20 months). 15 (44.1%) had stable disease, and 8 (23.5%) had progressive disease. 2 patients were not assessable for response. Median overall survival was 6.4 months (range 0.7-28.1 months; 95% CI: 3.9-7.7 months). 24 patients (68.6%) experienced grade 3/4 neutropenia, with febrile neutropenia in 4 (11.4%). Grade 3/4 anaemia and thrombocytopenia occurred in 11 (34.3%) and 6 (17.1%) patients, respectively. The most frequent non-haematological toxicity was grade 3/4 mucositis (17.1%; 6 patients). In conclusion, pemetrexed is active in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Although substantial haematological toxicities were experienced by patients, subsequent studies have shown that these toxicities can be proactively managed by folic acid and vitamin B(12)supplementation.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.