Clinical Study

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy in technically unresectable head and neck cancers: a retrospective audit

2 Nov 2022
Bal Krishna Mishra, Akhil Kapoor, Anuj Gupta, Bipinesh Sansar, Arpita Singh, Somnath Roy, Tanmoy Mandal, Sujay Srinivas, Sudeep Das, Aseem Mishra, Ashutosh Mukherjee, Sambit Nanda, Kurupathy Sambasivaiah

Background: The data regarding the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in technically unresectable head and neck cancer (HNC) is limited and real-world studies are needed to look for the efficacy and toxicities of this approach.

Patients and methods: This is a retrospective study conducted in the Medical Oncology department of our hospital. All technically unresectable HNC patients who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy between May 2018 and May 2020 were included in this analysis. Patients received three-drug regimen docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (DCF) regimen, two-drug regimens included docetaxel + cisplatin, paclitaxel + carboplatin both weekly and 3-weekly. The resectability assessment was done clinically and radiologically after completing three neoadjuvant cycles. Overall survival was calculated from the first day of chemotherapy to the date of last follow-up or date of death.

Results: A total of 119 patients received neoadjuvant chemotherapy during the specified time. Response assessment showed partial response in 41.9% of patients with three-drug regimens and 37.5% of patients with other regimens. Out of 119 patients, 56 (47%) patients were offered radical intent therapy. Resectability was achieved in 32.3% of three-drug regimen patients and 26.1% of other patients. Surgery was feasible in 33 (27.7%) patients, and postoperative radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy were done in 30 patients (25.2%), and surgery with only postoperative radiotherapy was done in 3 patients (2.5%). Radical chemoradiotherapy was done in 23 patients (19.3%). The estimated median survival for patients who could undergo surgery was 18 months [95% confidence interval (CI), 14.9-21.0], and nonsurgical patients were 9 months (95% CI, 7.3–10.6) (p = 0.0001).

Conclusion: Our study shows that neoadjuvant chemotherapy in technically unresectable HNC patients can make the disease resectable in around one-third of the patients. The patients who could undergo surgery after neoadjuvant chemotherapy had significantly improved survival as compared to those who could not.

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