Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of an unknown primary localized to the neck. Advantages of an aggressive treatment

Cancer. 1989 Jul 15;64(2):510-5. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19890715)64:2<510::aid-cncr2820640225>;2-2.


Treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of an unknown primary localized to the neck is still controversial, particularly regarding advanced disease. We reviewed 41 such patients treated with surgery and/or radiotherapy (RT) (n = 25) or with combined modality treatment including chemotherapy (CH) (n = 16). The male to female ratio was 28 to 13, and the median age was 58 years (range, 32 to 94 years). There were 27 (66%) patients with poorly differentiated SCC and 8 with moderately differentiated or well-differentiated cancer. Twenty-three (56%) patients had N3 disease, 16 (39%) had N2, and 2 had N1. The majority of N3 patients have been treated with CH and RT (n = 12) or with RT alone (n = 9). The combined CH-RT was well tolerated, with no life-threatening toxicity. The complete response (CR) to CH-RT was 81% (11 patients have no evidence of disease [NED] currently). The median survival time of this group was 37+ months. Of the 25 patients who had surgery and/or RT as their first planned treatment, 7 (28%) have NED currently. The median survival time of this group was 24 months. Patients with N3 disease who received CH had a higher CR rate and a longer survival time as compared with those treated with surgery and/or RT, despite a higher (N3) stage of disease. These findings warrant further investigation in randomized cooperative studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / secondary
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Unknown Primary*