Standard of care vs reduced-dose chemoradiation after induction chemotherapy in HPV+ oropharyngeal carcinoma patients: The Quarterback trial

Oral Oncol. 2019 Aug;95:170-177. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.06.021. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


Background: Human Papillomavirus oropharyngeal carcinoma (HPVOPC) has better progression free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) than non-HPVOPC. Standard-dose chemoradiotherapy (sdCRT) results in significant acute toxicity and late morbidity. We hypothesized that after induction chemotherapy (IC), reduced dose chemoradiation (rdCRT) would result in equivalent PFS and OS compared to sdCRT plus IC in HPVOPC and would reduce toxicity.

Methods: Patients with p16+, previously untreated, locally advanced HPVOPC and ≤20 pack years smoking history received 3 cycles of IC with docetaxel, cisplatin and fluorouracil (TPF). Clinical responders who were HPV positive by type-specific PCR were randomized 1:2 to sdCRT (7000 cGy) or rdCRT (5600 cGy) with weekly carboplatin. The endpoints of the study were 3 year PFS and OS.

Results: 23 patients were enrolled, 22 were evaluable for TPF toxicity and 20 were randomized, 8 to sdCRT and 12 to rdCRT. Sixteen (80%) were HPV 16+ and 4 (20%) were other high risk (HR) variants. Fourteen (70%) had high risk features: T4, N2c, or N3. Median follow up was 56 months (range 42-70). Three-year PFS/OS for sdCRT and rdCRT are 87.5% vs 83.3% (log-rank test p = 0.85), respectively. All 3 failures are locoregional within 4 months of completion of CRT; 2 were in HR variants (50%).

Conclusions: rdCRT after IC resulted in similar PFS/OS compared sdCRT. These data support Phase 3 clinical trials of radiation dose reduction after IC as a treatment strategy in HPVOPC. Molecular HPV with variant testing and smoking history are necessary for de-escalation trials.

Keywords: De-escalation; Human papillomavirus; Oropharynx cancer; Sequential therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Equivalence Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Chemoradiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods*
  • Chemoradiotherapy / standards
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Induction Chemotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / mortality
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Patient Selection
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy Dosage / standards
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / mortality
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / pathology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / therapy*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / virology
  • Standard of Care