Retrospective analysis of 5037 patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma treated during 1976-1985: overall survival and patterns of failure

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1992;23(2):261-70. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(92)90740-9.


This is a retrospective analysis of 5037 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the nasopharynx treated during the years 1976-1985. The stage distribution according to Ho's classification was 9% Stage I, 13% II, 50% III, 22% IV, and 6% Stage V. Only 4488 (89%) patients had a full course of megavoltage radiation therapy. The median equivalent dose to the nasopharyngeal region was 65 Gy and cervical region in node-positive patients 53 Gy. Seventy percent (906/1290) of the node-negative patients had no prophylactic neck irradiation. The overall actuarial 10-year survival rate was 43%, and the corresponding failure-free survival 34%. Altogether, 4157 (83%) patients achieved complete remission lasting more than 6 months, but 53% (2205/4157) of them relapsed after a median interval of 1.4 years. The 10-year actuarial local, regional, and distant failure-free rates were 61%, 64%, and 59%, respectively. Thirty-eight percent (338/891) of all patients with local recurrence achieved second local remission. The local complete remission rate with aggressive re-irradiation alone was 47% (333/706). But 37% (124/338) of the responders recurred the second time. The incidence of distant failure correlated significantly with both the N-stage and the T-stage, with the highest (57%) occurring in patients with N3 disease. The incidence of nodal relapse in node-negative patients was 11% (44/384) among those given prophylactic neck irradiation, but 40% (362/906) among those without. Therapeutic irradiation achieved a complete regional remission rate of 90% (306/339). However, despite successful salvage, these patients had a significantly higher distant failure rate than those without nodal relapse, even if they remained local-failure-free (21% vs 6%). Patients treated during 1981-1985 achieved significantly better treatment results than those treated during 1976-1980, especially in terms of the overall survival (57% vs 47% at 5-year), the overall failure-free survival (42% vs 35% at 5-year), and the local failure-free rate (70% vs 63% at 5-year). The possible contributing factors are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate