Randomized phase 2 study of concomitant chemoradiotherapy using weekly carboplatin/paclitaxel with or without daily subcutaneous amifostine in patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer

Cancer. 2009 Oct 1;115(19):4514-23. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24525.


Background: A randomized phase 2 study was performed to investigate the efficacy/toxicity of combining concomitant boost radiation and weekly carboplatin/paclitaxel with or without amifostine in patients with locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

Methods: Patients with newly diagnosed, locally advanced stage III or IV SCCHN received 4 weekly doses of carboplatin (area under the curve, 1.5) and paclitaxel (45 mg/m(2)) concurrently with concomitant boost radiation consisting of 72 grays in 42 fractions over 6 weeks (every day for 18 days, twice a day for 12 days) (grading determined according to the TNM staging system). All patients were randomized to subcutaneous daily amifostine at a dose of 500 mg (Arm A) or no amifostine (Arm B). Toxicity data were collected weekly, and saliva collection was performed with and without citric acid stimulation. To evaluate the correlation between serum cytokine levels and the severity of oral mucositis, we evaluated a subset (13 patients in Arm A and 11 patients in Arm B) of subjects at baseline and then on alternate weeks.

Results: Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, 29 in each arm. The majority of patients were men (90%), had stage IV disease (82%), and had the oropharynx as the primary tumor site (60%). Major toxicities encountered were similar in both arms and included grade 3 (as determined by Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 3.0) mucositis (75% in Arm A and 70% in Arm B) and grade 2 xerostomia (41% in both arms). The median number of amifostine doses delivered was 28, with skin toxicity (grade 3 in 11 patients) as the limiting factor. Saliva production showed no difference between the arms. The median follow-up was 34 months, and only 5 failures had been encountered (2 local and 3 distant) at the time of last follow-up, with an overall survival rate of 89%. Neck dissection was performed in 25 patients; 5 patients demonstrated persistent disease and 4 patients were alive without disease recurrence at the time of last follow-up. The median time to percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy removal was 9.6 months in Arm A and 10.4 months in Arm B. Only 1 patient remained percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy-dependent at the time of last follow-up. A correlation was noted between levels of selected cytokines and mucositis severity, in which higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor, interleukin [IL]-1, and IL-6) and lower levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-13) were noted. No changes in C-reactive protein levels were noted.

Conclusions: Four weekly doses of carboplatin/paclitaxel with concomitant boost radiation was found to be a highly effective regimen in this patient population with advanced SCCHN. The overall survival rate was 89%. The time to percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy removal was prolonged. Amifostine given subcutaneously did not improve the rates of xerostomia and mucositis with this fairly intensive chemoradiotherapy regimen.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amifostine / administration & dosage
  • Amifostine / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carboplatin / administration & dosage
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Stomatitis / prevention & control
  • Survival Rate
  • Xerostomia / etiology


  • Cytokines
  • Carboplatin
  • Amifostine
  • Paclitaxel