Background: Treatment options for recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are limited with response rates to cytotoxic chemotherapy of approximately 30% and median survival of 6 months.
Patients and methods: In a multicentre phase II study, 32 patients with recurrent or metastatic HNSCC received 3-AP Triapine (3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone), an inhibitor of ribonucleotide reductase, 96 mg/m2, daily for 4 days every 14 days (one cycle). Eligibility criteria required Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (ECOG PS) of zero to two with a life expectancy of >3 months; one prior chemotherapy regimen was allowed.
Results: Thirty patients were assessable for response and toxicity. Median age was 57 years (range 36-79) and median ECOG PS was one (range 0-2). Thirteen patients had previously been treated with chemotherapy. A total of 130 cycles were administered with a median number of cycles of 3.5 (range 1-8). Mild anaemia (40%), nausea (22%) and fatigue (22%) were commonly reported with G3 and G4 neutropenia documented in 22% and 22%, respectively. Overall response rate was 5.9% (95% confidence interval 0.2% to 28.7%). One patient achieved a partial response, eight had stable disease and 21 progressive disease. Median time to disease progression was 3.9 months.
Conclusions: 3-AP Triapine as a single agent, at this dose and schedule, is well tolerated but has only minor activity in the treatment of advanced HNSCC.