Background: Intensification of chemoradiation for advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is unlikely due to toxicity. Cetuximab combined either with radiotherapy or with chemotherapy showed favourable toxic profile with positive results in both combinations. Therefore, cetuximab could intensify chemoradiation without worsening toxicity. We conducted a phase II study of chemoradiation and cetuximab.
Patients and methods: Eligible patients had stage III-IV M0 HNSCC. Treatment consisted of three cycles of cisplatin (20 mg/m(2)/day × 5 days) and fluorouracil (200 mg/m(2)/day × 5 days) rapidly alternated to three split courses of radiotherapy up to 70 Gy and concurrent weekly cetuximab. The primary end point of the study was complete response (CR) rate. Secondary end points were toxicity, progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS).
Results: Fourty-five patients were enrolled: median age was 56 years, 38 had stage IV disease and 40 nodal involvement. CR occurred in 32 patients (71%). PFS and OS was 21+ months and 32.6+, respectively. Acute grade 3-4 toxic effects were in the expected range, but grade 3 radiodermatitis occurred in 33 patients.
Conclusions: The combination of cetuximab, cisplatin, fluorouracil and radiotherapy leads to a very high proportion of CR and it is feasible with toxic effects similar to those expected by radiochemotherapy. The only unexpected toxicity was skin toxicity: grade 3 radiodermatitis occurred in 73% of the patients.