Aims: Recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) develops in around 72,000 people in Europe every year. Treatment options are limited, mainly consisting of platinum-based palliative chemotherapy, with median overall survival times of only 6-8 months. No standard second-line treatment after progression on platinum-based chemotherapy is available. Few data have reported the efficacy of these treatments and the outcome of the patients. In an effort to generate such data, this retrospective study analysed clinical records from 151 patients with SCCHN refractory to platinum-based chemotherapy treated between 1990 and 2000 at seven different centres around Europe.
Materials and methods: Most patients (45%) received only best supportive care (BSC), and had a median survival of 56 days. A total of 28.5% of the patients received second-line chemotherapies: 16.6% radiotherapy and 9.9% chemoradiotherapy.
Results: No objective response was observed with the various second-line chemotherapies. The overall median survival was 103 days (95% confidence interval [CI]: 77-126 days) for the whole cohort. The overall objective response rate (ORR) to second-line treatment in this population was calculated to be 2.6%.
Conclusion: These results highlight the need for additional treatment options for this disease. Similar, if not superior, response rates have already been observed in initial clinical studies of novel, targeted anti-cancer agents.