Role of induction chemotherapy for oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma

Cancer. 2021 Sep 1;127(17):3107-3112. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33616. Epub 2021 Apr 28.


Background: Patients with locoregionally advanced oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) have a poor survival outcome. Treatment involves extensive surgery, adjuvant radiation, or chemoradiation and results in high morbidity. In this study, the authors' objective was to evaluate their experience with induction chemotherapy (IC) in the treatment of locoregionally advanced OCSCC.

Methods: A retrospective review of the medical records of all patients with locoregionally advanced (stage III and IV) OCSCC who received IC followed by definitive local therapy was conducted. Outcomes included response to IC and survival.

Results: In total, 120 patients were included in the study. The overall stage was stage IV in 79.2% of patients. After 2 cycles of IC, 76 patients (63.3%) achieved at least a partial response, including 13 who had a complete response. Stable disease was observed in 30 patients (25%), and 14 patients (11.7%) had progressive disease. Among responders, 16 patients received definitive chemoradiation or radiation therapy, and 60 underwent surgical resection, of whom 15 had less extensive surgery than was originally planned. Overall, organ preservation was achieved in 40.8% of patients who had a favorable response to IC. The 5-year overall and disease-specific survival rates were 51.4% and 66.9%, respectively. Patients who had at least a partial response had better 5-year overall survival (60.1%) and disease-specific survival (78.5%) compared with nonresponders (33.8% and 46.4%, respectively).

Conclusions: The results demonstrate a response rate to IC in patients with advanced OCSCC similar to what has been observed in patients with cancer in other head and neck subsites. Patients who achieved at least a partial response to IC had a more favorable outcome, with ensuing organ preservation. Further studies are warranted.

Keywords: induction chemotherapy; oral cancer; oral cavity; organ preservation; squamous cell carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Cisplatin
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Induction Chemotherapy / methods
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cisplatin