Lower circulating platelet counts and antiplatelet therapy independently predict better outcomes in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

J Hematol Oncol. 2014 Sep 27:7:65. doi: 10.1186/s13045-014-0065-5.


Background: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) mortality rates have not shown significant reduction in decades. Platelets are being implicated in having cancer-promoting roles, an observation supported by the adverse outcomes associated with thrombocytosis in many malignancies associated with thrombocytosis. However, the prognostic significance of platelet counts in HNSCC is unknown. Here, we comprehensively investigate the predictive value of platelet counts at diagnosis and post-diagnosis antiplatelet treatment in the overall survival of HNSCC patients.

Methods: The study population consists of 1051 pathologically confirmed HNSCC cases diagnosed between years 2000 and 2012 in a tertiary medical center. Platelet count was investigated as a predictor of survival by fitting Cox Proportional Hazards (CPH) regression models to generate Hazard Ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), while adjusting for age, sex, race, stage, treatment and smoking status. Finally, we evaluated the association between overall survival and antiplatelet medication intake after diagnosis.

Results: Multivariable analysis showed an increased death rate in patients with thromobocytosis [HR 2.37, 95% CI 1.60-3.50)] and high normal platelet counts [HR 2.20, 95% CI 1.58-3.05] compared to the reference middle normal group. Post-diagnosis treatment with antiplatelet medications was inversely associated with death rate [HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.58-0.99].

Conclusions: Higher platelet counts were associated with poorer prognosis in HNSCC patients, whereas antiplatelet agents were associated with better prognosis. Antiplatelet agents warrant evaluation in preclinical and clinical settings as a way to improve survival in HNSCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / blood*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Platelet Count
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors