Assessment of Toxic Effects and Survival in Treatment Deescalation With Radiotherapy vs Transoral Surgery for HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma: The ORATOR2 Phase 2 Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Oncol. 2022 Jun 1;8(6):1-7. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.0615.


Importance: The optimal approach for treatment deescalation in human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OPSCCs) is unknown.

Objective: To assess a primary radiotherapy (RT) approach vs a primary transoral surgical (TOS) approach in treatment deescalation for HPV-related OPSCC.

Design, setting, and participants: This international, multicenter, open-label parallel-group phase 2 randomized clinical trial was conducted at 9 tertiary academic cancer centers in Canada and Australia and enrolled patients with T1-T2N0-2 p16-positive OPSCC between February 13, 2018, and November 17, 2020. Patients had up to 3 years of follow-up.

Interventions: Primary RT (consisting of 60 Gy of RT with concurrent weekly cisplatin in node-positive patients) vs TOS and neck dissection (ND) (with adjuvant reduced-dose RT depending on pathologic findings).

Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was overall survival (OS) compared with a historical control. Secondary end points included progression-free survival (PFS), quality of life, and toxic effects.

Results: Overall, 61 patients were randomized (30 [49.2%] in the RT arm and 31 [50.8%] in the TOS and ND arm; median [IQR] age, 61.9 [57.2-67.9] years; 8 women [13.6%] and 51 men [86.4%]; 31 [50.8%] never smoked). The trial began in February 2018, and accrual was halted in November 2020 because of excessive toxic effects in the TOS and ND arm. Median follow-up was 17 months (IQR, 15-20 months). For the OS end point, there were 3 death events, all in the TOS and ND arm, including the 2 treatment-related deaths (0.7 and 4.3 months after randomization, respectively) and 1 of myocardial infarction at 8.5 months. There were 4 events for the PFS end point, also all in the TOS and ND arm, which included the 3 mortality events and 1 local recurrence. Thus, the OS and PFS data remained immature. Grade 2 to 5 toxic effects occurred in 20 patients (67%) in the RT arm and 22 (71%) in the TOS and ND arm. Mean (SD) MD Anderson Dysphagia Inventory scores at 1 year were similar between arms (85.7 [15.6] and 84.7 [14.5], respectively).

Conclusions and relevance: In this randomized clinical trial, TOS was associated with an unacceptable risk of grade 5 toxic effects, but patients in both trial arms achieved good swallowing outcomes at 1 year. Long-term follow-up is required to assess OS and PFS outcomes.

Trial registration: Identifier: NCT03210103.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / surgery
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / complications
  • Quality of Life
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / therapy

Associated data