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Concurrent chemoradiation with paclitaxel versus cisplatin in locally advanced head and neck cancer patients – A prospective comparative study

Tapas Kumar Das, Kaustav Chatterjee, Sunita Das, Linkon Biswas.


Background: External beam radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy has become the mainstay of treatment for locally advanced head and neck cancers.

Objective: The objective of this study was to compare paclitaxel to cisplatin as an agent for concurrent chemoradiation in locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of head neck region in terms of toxicities and response to treatment.

Materials and Methods: Biopsy-proven Stage III and Stage IVA head and neck squamous cell cancer patients were included in the study. The study arm patients received concurrent dose of paclitaxel 20 mg/m2 I/V 1 h infusion 4 h before radiation, repeated weekly for 6 cycles. Patients in the control arm received concurrent dose of cisplatin 30 mg/m2 I/V 1 h infusion 4 h before radiation, repeated weekly for 6 cycles. Patients of both arms received a total dose of 66 Gy external beam radiation, 200 cGy/day, 5 fractions in a week in 6.5 weeks treated on a Theratron 780E Cobalt-60 teletherapy unit.

Results: Acute Grades III and IV renal toxicity and nausea were reported significantly more number of cases in cisplatin arm in comparison to paclitaxel arm. There was no statistically significant difference observed in the groups in terms of treatment response and failure pattern (χ2 = 3.63, df = 1, level of significance 0.05). On follow-up, up to 6 months, 51.85% of cases are disease free in the control arm and 50.66% of cases in the study arm.

Conclusion: Low-dose weekly paclitaxel concurrent with external beam radiation therapy given in conventional fractionation is comparable to concurrent cisplatin in locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in terms of efficacy. There is lower incidence of severe renal toxicity and vomiting with concurrent paclitaxel than with cisplatin.

Key words: External Beam Radiotherapy; Concurrent Chemotherapy; Head and Neck Cancer

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