Nonsurgical Management of Resectable Oral Cavity Cancer in the Wake of COVID-19: A Rapid Review and Meta-Analysis

Oral Oncol. 2020 Jun 10;109:104849. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2020.104849. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Surgery is the preferred treatment modality for oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). However, due to limited resources, re-assessment of treatment paradigms in the wake of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is urgently required. In this rapid review, we described contemporary oncological outcomes for OSCC using non-surgical modalities.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted for articles published between January 1, 2010 and April 1, 2020 on MEDLINE and Cochrane CENTRAL. Studies were included if they contained patients with OSCC treated with either neoadjuvant, induction, or definitive radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or combination thereof, and an outcome of overall survival.

Results: In total, 36 articles were included. Definitive radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy were the focus of 18 articles and neoadjuvant chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy were the focus of the other 18 articles. In early stage OSCC, definitive radiotherapy, with or without concurrent chemotherapy, was associated with a significantly increased hazard of death compared to definitive surgery (HR: 2.39, 95% CI: 1.56-3.67, I2: 63%). The hazard of death was non-significantly increased with definitive chemoradiotherapy in studies excluding early disease (HR: 1.98, 95% CI: 0.85-4.64, I2: 84%). Two recent randomized control trials have been conducted, demonstrating no survival advantage to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Conclusion: This review suggests that primary radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy are inferior to surgical management for OSCC. Strategies for surgical delay warranting consideration are sparse, but may include several neoadjuvant regimens, recognizing these regimens may not offer a survival benefit over definitive surgery alone.

Keywords: COVID-19; Chemo-radiotherapy; Chemotherapy; Immunotherapy; Oral cavity; Outcomes; Radiotherapy; Squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review