PURPOSE - To determine efficacy and toxicities of postoperative concurrent chemoradiation using docetaxel in high-risk head and neck cancer.
METHODS AND MATERIALS - High-risk patients were enrolled 2-8 weeks after surgery. Treatment included 60 Gy for 6 weeks with weekly docetaxel 25 mg/m(2) and erythropoietin alpha 40,000 U for hemoglobin < or =12 g/dL. Primary endpoints included locoregional control (LC), disease-free survival (DFS), and patterns of failure (POF). Secondary endpoints were toxicity and quality of life.
RESULTS - Eighteen patients were enrolled (14 male, 4 female), aged 24-70 years (median, 55 years). Primary site included oropharynx = 7, oral cavity = 8, hypopharynx = 1, and larynx = 2. Pathologic American Joint Committee on Cancer Stage was III = 3 patients, IV = 15 patients. High-risk eligibility included > or =2 positive lymph nodes = 13, extracapsular extension = 10, positive margins = 8 (11 patients with two or more risk factors). Docetaxel was reduced to 20 mg/m(2)/week after 5 patients had prolonged Grade 3 or higher mucositis. Overall, number of doses delivered was 2 of 6 = 1, 3 of 6 = 2, 4 of 6 = 2, 5 of 6 = 4, 6 of 6 = 9 patients. With median follow-up of 30 months (range, 5-66), 10 (56%) patients are alive and have no evidence of disease (NED); POF: three local recurrences (two with distant) and 1 distant only. One-year survival was 76%, median PFS and DFS had not been reached. Three-year LC was 82%. No Grade 3 or higher late toxicities were observed, although a few cases of prolonged mucositis and taste loss (>3 months) were seen, particularly at 25 mg/m(2)/week.
CONCLUSION - Postoperative radiation therapy with weekly docetaxel 20 or 25 mg/m(2)/week for high-risk postoperative head and neck cancer caused intolerable mucosal toxicity, prompting early study termination. Further studies should consider 15 mg/m(2). Actuarial 3-year LC is 82%, similar to cisplatin-based chemoradiation regimens. Distant metastasis remains an important issue requiring additional systemic interventions.