Background: We conducted two parallel phase II trials in chemonaïve and previously treated patients with metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) to evaluate the tumour response, progression-free and overall survival, and toxicity of gemcitabine.
Patients and methods: Gemcitabine 1250 mg/m2 was given on days 1 and 8 of a 21-day cycle. Patients with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status <2, adequate renal, hepatic and bone marrow function, and radiologically measurable NPC were eligible.
Results: Twenty-five chemonaïve and 27 previously treated patients were enrolled. The overall response rate was 28% [95% confidence interval (CI) 14% to 48%] for the chemonaïve and 48% (95% CI 31% to 66%) for previously treated patients. Toxicities greater than or equal to grade 3 occurred in 15 (60%) chemonaïve and 13 (48%) previously treated patients. Neutropenia was uncommon in chemonaïve patients, but occurred in 37% of previously treated patients. The median time to progression was 3.6 months (range 0.9-7.9) for chemonaïve and 5.1 months (0.9-13.1) for previously treated patients. Median overall survival time was 7.2 months (1.4-15.6) and 10.5 months (2.4-15.0) for chemonaïve and previously treated patients, respectively.
Conclusions: Gemcitabine has moderate activity in NPC with minimal toxicity, and is also an effective salvage agent for patients who have failed or progressed after treatment with other agents.