Background: mTHPC-mediated photodynamic therapy (PDT) is used for treatment of early head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. This study is a retrospective comparison of PDT with transoral surgery in the treatment of early primary squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity/oropharynx.
Methods: PDT data were retrieved from four study databases; surgical results were retrieved from our institutional database. To select similar primary tumors, infiltration depth was restricted to 5 mm for the surgery group. A total of 126 T1 and 30 T2 tumors were included in the PDT group, and 58 T1 and 33 T2 tumors were included in the surgically treated group.
Results: Complete response rates with PDT and surgery were 86 and 76% for T1, respectively, and for T2 63 and 78%. Lower local disease-free survival for PDT compared to surgery was found. However, when comparing the need for local retreatment, no significant difference for T1 tumors was found, while for T2 tumors surgery resulted in significantly less need for local retreatment. No significant differences in overall survival between surgery and PDT were observed.
Conclusions: PDT for T1 tumors results in a similar need for retreatment compared to surgery, while for T2 tumors PDT performs worse. Local disease-free survival for surgery is better than for PDT. This may be influenced by the benefit surgery has of having histology available. This allows an early decision on reintervention, while for PDT one has to follow a wait-and-see policy. Future prospective studies should compare efficacy as well as morbidity.