Purpose: To expand on our experience with the combination of paclitaxel, fluorouracil, hydroxyurea, and twice daily irradiation (T-FHX) and to assess the impact of weekly administration of erythropoietin (r-HuEpo) on transfusion requirements, we conducted a Phase II multi-institutional trial with a simplified 1-h paclitaxel infusion schedule and randomized patients to receive weekly doses of r-HuEpo.
Patients and methods: A total of 90 patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers (stage IV, 96%; N(2)/N(3), 66%) were treated on a regimen of 1-h infusion of paclitaxel (100 mg/m(2)/day, day 1), 120-h infusion of 5-fluorouracil (600 mg/m(2)/day, days 0-5); hydroxyurea 500 mg p.o. every 12 h for 11 doses; and radiation 150cGy bid, days 1-5 of each 14-day cycle repeated for five cycles over 10 weeks (7200-7500 cGy). Before initiating therapy, patients were randomized to receive r-HuEpo 40,000 IU s.c. once weekly.
Results: At median follow-up of 40 months, 3-year progression-free survival is 62%, locoregional control is 84%, and systemic control is 79%. Overall survival is 59%. Anemia, leucopenia, dermatitis, and mucositis were the most frequent grade 3 or 4 toxicities. Patients randomized to erythropoietin experienced less grade 2/3 anemia (52 versus 77%; P = 0.02), but transfusion requirements were not significantly different.
Conclusions: T-FHX is an active and tolerable regimen inducing local tumor control and promising survival with organ preservation in high-risk patients. One h infusion of paclitaxel simplified the regimen without compromising efficacy. Addition of erythropoietin does not reduce the need for transfusion with this nonplatinum-containing regimen. T-FHX should be advanced to a randomized trial and compared with a cisplatin-based concomitant regimen.