Methotrexate/fluorouracil scheduling influences normal tissue toxicity but not antitumor effects in patients with squamous cell head and neck cancer: results from a randomized trial.
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To test the hypothesis that sequential scheduling of methotrexate (MTX) and fluorouracil (FU) produces a synergistic antitumor effect, we randomized 113 patients with recurrent or locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck to receive MTX-FU either 18 hours apart or simultaneously, with leucovorin rescue. There were 100 patients with locally advanced newly presenting disease and 13 patients with recurrence. Excessive toxicity was observed in the first 11 patients who received MTX 250 mg/m2 administered intravenously (IV) and leucovorin at 36 hours, therefore all subsequent patients received MTX 200 mg/m2 administered IV and leucovorin at 24 hours. FU 600 mg/m2 IV was administered to all patients, and treatment was given on days 1 and 8 of 21-day cycles. The treatment groups were well balanced for known prognostic variables. The response rate was 47.3% (26 of 55) for simultaneous v 44.8% (26 of 58) for sequential therapy. These results exclude a 20% difference in response rate favoring sequential therapy at P = .04. There was no observed difference in survival between the two treatment arms (P = .55) with a minimum follow-up of 8 months. Toxicity was greater in patients who received sequential therapy, and the difference was confined to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A comparison of the distribution in maximum Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) toxicity scores during chemotherapy for the two treatment groups showed greater stomatitis (P = .001), diarrhea (P = .04), and overall toxicity (P = .02) for sequential treatment without an observed difference in bone marrow toxicity. The results of this trial indicate that sequential MTX-FU is not superior to simultaneous therapy for the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. Biochemical modulation of MTX-FU by drug scheduling may occur in vivo and may be organ specific.
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