Organ preservation with chemoradiation in advanced laryngeal cancer: The problem of generalizing results from randomized controlled trials

Auris Nasus Larynx. 2017 Feb;44(1):18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.anl.2016.06.005. Epub 2016 Jul 5.


Background: The primary goal of treatment in advanced laryngeal cancer is to achieve optimal oncologic outcomes while preserving function and quality of life. Combination of chemotherapy and radiation has been popularized as an alternative to surgery for patients facing total laryngectomy. However, survival analyses from large, population-based databases have not duplicated results reported from randomized trials.

Methods: A comprehensive literature review was undertaken to try to better understand the reasons why results differ among randomized trials and population cohort studies.

Results: A variety of reasons are discussed, including differences in patient staging, selection bias, complexity bias, inconsistent terminology, patient compliance and treatment expertise.

Conclusions: Personalized treatment considering all factors is critical for optimal outcomes. In general, evidence supports total laryngectomy for patients with T4 cancers. Definitive chemoradiotherapy strategies are acceptable alternatives for T3 cancers, provided that all resources for the administration of the treatment, follow-up and surgical salvage are available.

Keywords: Advanced laryngeal cancer; Bias; Chemoradiotherapy; Controlled clinical trials; Laryngeal neoplasm; Laryngectomy; Organ preservation; Outcomes assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemoradiotherapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Laryngectomy
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Organ Sparing Treatments*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Compliance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome