Placebo-controlled randomized trial of infusional fluorouracil during standard radiotherapy in locally advanced head and neck cancer.
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PURPOSE: To determine whether the addition of infusional fluorouracil (I-FU) to standard radiotherapy improves survival at acceptable toxicity in patients with locally advanced squamous cell head and neck cancer (SCHNC). PATIENTS AND METHODS: Consenting patients with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status < or = 2; with stage III or IV SCHNC of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, or larynx; and who were recommended for radiotherapy with curative intent received 66 Gy of radiation therapy delivered in 2-Gy fractions once daily 5 days per week for 6 1/2 weeks. Those in the experimental arm received I-FU 1.2 g/m2/d, as a 72-hour infusion in the first and third weeks of radiation. Saline infusions were used in the placebo arm. RESULTS: One hundred seventy-five patients were randomized (88 to I-FU and 87 to placebo), and the treatment arms were well balanced. The complete response rate was 68% for I-FU and 56% for placebo (P = .04). The overall median survival duration was 33 months for I-FU and 25 months for placebo (P = .08). Progression-free survival also favored I-FU (P = .06). Toxicity was greater in I-FU patients, but did not interfere with the scheduled delivery or completion of radiation. CONCLUSION: The addition of I-FU to standard radiation in SCHNC improved the complete response rate and was associated with beneficial trends in progression-free and overall survival compared with radiation alone. I-FU patients also experienced greater morbidity, but this did not compromise delivery of radiotherapy.
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