The benefit of adding docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (TPF) induction chemotherapy to chemoradiotherapy (CRT) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) remains uncertain. We aimed to investigate whether ICT is well tolerated when given with prophylactic treatment against predicted adverse effects and which patients benefit most.
A single-centre audit identified 132 HNSCC patients with stage IVa/b neck node-positive disease, prescribed TPF followed by CRT. TPF involved three cycles of docetaxel (75 mg/m2 IV) and cisplatin (75 mg/m2 IV) on day 1 plus 5-FU (750 mg/m2 IV) on days 2–5. Planned CRT was 66 Gy in 30 fractions of intensity-modulated radiotherapy with concurrent cisplatin (100 mg/m2 IV) at the beginning of week 1 and 4 (days 1 and 22). All patients received prophylactic antibiotics and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor.
Median follow-up was 39.5 months. 92.4% of patients completed three cycles of TPF; 95.5% of patients started chemoradiotherapy. Grade 3/4 adverse events were low (febrile neutropenia 3.0%), with no toxicity-related deaths. 3-year overall survival was 67.2%; disease-specific survival was 78.7%; locoregional control was 78.3%. Distant metastases rate was 9.8% (3.0% in those without locoregional recurrence). Good performance status (p = 0.002) and poor tumour differentiation (p = 0.018) were associated with improved overall survival on multivariate analysis.
With prophylactic antibiotics and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor TPF was well tolerated with good survival outcomes. TPF should remain a treatment option for stage IV neck node-positive patients with a good performance status. The use of tumour grade to aid patient selection for TPF warrants investigation.