Purpose: To evaluate the role of adjuvant chemotherapy in locally advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients, we conducted a randomized Phase III trial comparing radiotherapy (RT) followed by adjuvant chemotherapy to RT alone in patients with advanced NPC.
Methods and materials: Between November 1994 and March 1999, 157 patients with Stage IV, M(0) (UICC/AJCC, 1992) advanced NPC disease were randomized to receive standard radiotherapy, as follows: 35-40 fractions, 1.8-2.0 Gy/fraction/day, 5 days/week, to a total dose 70-72 Gy with or without 9 weekly cycles of 24-h infusional chemotherapy (20 mg/m(2) cisplatin, 2,200 mg/m(2) 5-fluorouracil, and 120 mg/m(2) leucovorin) after RT. Of 157 patients enrolled, 154 (77 radiotherapy, 77 combined therapy) were evaluable for survival and toxicity analysis.
Results: With a median follow-up of 49.5 months, the 5-year overall survival and relapse-free survival rates were 60.5% vs. 54.5% (p = 0.5) and 49.5% vs. 54.4% (p = 0.38) for the radiotherapy-alone group and the combined radiotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy group, respectively. The Cox regression showed that the hazard rates ratio of combined treatment to RT alone was 0.673 (p value = 0.232); the 95% confidence interval was 0.352 and 1.288, respectively. Patients who received combined treatment had a lower systemic relapse rate than radiotherapy-alone patients, according to relapse pattern analysis. The incidence of leukopenia (>or= Grade 3) occurred in 17 out of 819 (2.1%) cycles of weekly chemotherapy. No patient developed moderate to severe mucositis (>or= Grade 3).
Conclusions: We conclude that adjuvant chemotherapy after RT for patients with advanced NPC has no benefit for overall survival or relapse-free survival.