Introduction/purpose: Surgery and postoperative radiotherapy (XRT) is a standard therapy for locally advanced resectable oropharyngeal carcinoma. This maximizes local-regional control, but does not address the potential for occult distant metastases. Additionally, some patients may suffer poor functional outcome after this intensive local therapy. This report reviews our institutional experience with modern radical surgery and XRT for this disease.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on 51 consecutive patients treated from 1991 to 1997 at the University of Pennsylvania with radical surgery and postoperative XRT. This study included patients with locally advanced, stage III/IV (exclusive of T1-2N1) squamous carcinoma of the oropharynx. All patients had a good performance status (ECOG 0-1). Patients who received adjuvant chemotherapy were excluded. No patient had gross residual disease after surgery; the median XRT dose was 63.7 Gy. Survival, local-regional control (LRC), and freedom from distant metastases (DM) were calculated actuarially. In patients who remained free of disease, functional status was determined using the List Performance Status Scale (PSS).
Results: With a median follow-up in surviving patients of 34 months, the 3-year actuarial overall survival was 51%. The 3-year LRC was 73%, and the freedom from DM was 69%. The most significant factor predicting for failure was the number of pathologically positive nodes (P <.001 for survival and DM; P =.003 for LRC). In 29 patients who were evaluable for the List PSS, the mean normalcy-of-diet score was 48; the mean eating-in-public score was 53; and the mean understandability-of-speech score was 75. There was a trend toward better PSS scores in patients with T1-2 tumors versus T3-4 tumors, although this did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: Surgery and postoperative XRT offer relatively good LRC and moderate overall survival rates. Results, however, remain suboptimal, particularly with respect to the risk of DM and the functional outcome. These data provide a baseline for comparison with maturing results from multimodality trials in which radical surgery is not used in all patients with locally advanced oropharyngeal carcinoma.