Oncologic Significance of Therapeutic Delays in Patients With Oral Cavity Cancer

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2023 Nov 1;149(11):961-969. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2023.1936.


Importance: Oral cavity cancer often requires multidisciplinary management, subjecting patients to complex therapeutic trajectories. Prolonged treatment intervals in oral cavity cancer have been associated with poor oncological outcomes, but there has yet to be a study investigating treatment times in Canada.

Objective: To report treatment delays for patients with oral cavity cancer in Canada and evaluate the outcomes of treatment delays on overall survival.

Design, setting, and participants: This multicenter cohort study was performed at 8 Canadian academic centers from 2005 to 2019. Participants were patients with oral cavity cancer who underwent surgery and adjuvant radiation therapy. Analysis was performed in January 2023.

Main outcomes and measures: Treatment intervals evaluated were surgery to initiation of postoperative radiation therapy interval (S-PORT) and radiation therapy interval (RTI). The exposure variables were prolonged intervals, respectively defined as index S-PORT greater than 42 days and RTI greater than 46 days. Patient demographics, Charlson Comorbidity Index, smoking status, alcohol status, and cancer staging were also considered. Univariate (log rank and Kaplan-Meier) and multivariate (Cox regression) analyses were performed to determine associations with overall survival (OS).

Results: Overall, 1368 patients were included; median (IQR) age at diagnosis was 61 (54-70) years, and 896 (65%) were men. Median (IQR) S-PORT was 56 (46-68) days, with 1093 (80%) patients waiting greater than 42 days, and median (IQR) RTI was 43 (41-47) days, with 353 (26%) patients having treatment time interval greater than 46 days. There were variations in treatment time intervals between institutions for S-PORT (institution with longest vs shortest median S-PORT, 64 days vs 48 days; η2 = 0.023) and RTI (institution with longest vs shortest median RTI, 44 days vs 40 days; η2 = 0.022). Median follow-up was 34 months. The 3-year OS was 68%. In univariate analysis, patients with prolonged S-PORT had worse survival at 3 years (66% vs 77%; odds ratio 1.75; 95% CI, 1.27-2.42), whereas prolonged RTI (67% vs 69%; odds ratio 1.06; 95% CI, 0.81-1.38) was not associated with OS. Other factors associated with OS were age, Charlson Comorbidity Index, alcohol status, T category, N category, and institution. In the multivariate model, prolonged S-PORT remained independently associated with OS (hazard ratio, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.07-1.80).

Conclusions and relevance: In this multicenter cohort study of patients with oral cavity cancer requiring multimodal therapy, initiation of radiation therapy within 42 days from surgery was associated with improved survival. However, in Canada, only a minority completed S-PORT within the recommended time, whereas most had an appropriate RTI. An interinstitution variation existed in terms of treatment time intervals. Institutions should aim to identify reasons for delays in their respective centers, and efforts and resources should be directed toward achieving timely completion of S-PORT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / mortality
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Time-to-Treatment*