Purpose: To test induction chemotherapy (IC) followed by concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CRT) or surgery/radiotherapy (RT) for advanced oropharyngeal cancer and to assess the effect of human papilloma virus (HPV) on response and outcome.
Patients and methods: Sixty-six patients (51 male; 15 female) with stage III to IV squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx (SCCOP) were treated with one cycle of cisplatin (100 mg/m(2)) or carboplatin (AUC 6) and with fluorouracil (1,000 mg/m(2)/d for 5 days) to select candidates for CRT. Those achieving a greater than 50% response at the primary tumor received CRT (70 Gy; 35 fractions with concurrent cisplatin 100 mg/m(2) or carboplatin (AUC 6) every 21 days for three cycles). Adjuvant paclitaxel was given to patients who were complete histologic responders. Patients with a response of 50% or less underwent definitive surgery and postoperative radiation. Pretreatment biopsies from 42 patients were tested for high-risk HPV.
Results: Fifty-four of 66 patients (81%) had a greater than 50% response after IC. Of these, 53 (98%) received CRT, and 49 (92%) obtained complete histologic response with a 73.4% (47 of 64) rate of organ preservation. The 4-year overall survival (OS) was 70.4%, and the disease-specific survival (DSS) was 75.8% (median follow-up, 64.1 months). HPV16, found in 27 of 42 (64.3%) biopsies, was associated with younger age (median, 55 v 63 years; P = .016), sex (22 of 30 males [73.3%] and five of 12 females [41.7%]; P = .08), and nonsmoking status (P = .037). HPV titer was significantly associated with IC response (P = .001), CRT response (P = .005), OS (P = .007), and DSS (P = .008).
Conclusion: Although the numbers in this study are small, IC followed by CRT is an effective treatment for SCCOP, especially in patients with HPV-positive tumors; however, for patients who do not respond to treatment, alternative treatments must be developed.