A randomized double-blind phase III study of nimorazole as a hypoxic radiosensitizer of primary radiotherapy in supraglottic larynx and pharynx carcinoma. Results of the Danish Head and Neck Cancer Study (DAHANCA) Protocol 5-85

Radiother Oncol. 1998 Feb;46(2):135-46. doi: 10.1016/s0167-8140(97)00220-x.


Purpose: A multicenter randomized and balanced double-blind trial with the objective of assessing the efficacy and tolerance of nimorazole given as a hypoxic radiosensitizer in conjunction with primary radiotherapy of invasive carcinoma of the supraglottic larynx and pharynx.

Patients and treatment: Between January 1986 and September 1990, 422 patients (414 eligible) with pharynx and supraglottic larynx carcinoma were double-blind randomized to receive the hypoxic cell radiosensitizer nimorazole, or placebo, in association with conventional primary radiotherapy (62-68 Gy, 2 Gy per fraction, five fractions per week). The median observation time was 112 months.

Results: Univariate analysis showed that the outcome (5-year actuarial loco-regional tumor control) was significantly related to T-classification (T1-T2 48% versus T3-T4 36%, P = 0.0008), neck-nodes (N- 53% versus N+ 33%), pre-irradiation hemoglobin (Hb) concentration (high 46% versus low 37%, P = 0.02) and sex (females 51% versus males 38%, P = 0.03). Overall the nimorazole group showed a significantly better loco-regional control rate than the placebo group (49 versus 33%, P = 0.002). A similar significant benefit of nimorazole was observed for the end-points of final loco-regional control (including surgical salvage) and cancer-related deaths (52 versus 41%, P = 0.002). This trend was also found in the overall survival but to a lesser, non-significant extent (26 versus 16%, 10-year actuarial values, P = 0.32). Cox multivariate regression analysis showed the most important prognostic parameters for loco-regional control to be positive neck nodes (relative risk 1.84 (1.38-2.45)), T3-T4 tumor (relative risk 1.65 (1.25-2.17)) and nimorazole (relative risk 0.69 (0.52-0.90)). The same parameters were also significantly related to the probability of dying from cancer. The compliance to radiotherapy was good and 98% of the patients received the planned dose. Late radiation-related morbidity was observed in 10% of the patients, irrespective of nimorazole treatment. Drug-related side-effects were minor and tolerable with transient nausea and vomiting being the most frequent complications.

Conclusion: Nimorazole significantly improves the effect of radiotherapeutic management of supraglottic and pharynx tumors and can be given without major side-effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nimorazole / therapeutic use*
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Placebos
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Nimorazole