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J Clin Oncol. 2006 Jun 10;24(17):2644-52.

Chemotherapy options for patients with metastatic or recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

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Investigational Drug Branch, Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The purpose of this review is to provide readers with guidance concerning treatment of patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) in the context of clinical trial data. We discuss issues surrounding the treatment of patients with SCCHN, with an emphasis on recommendations based on results from phase II and III clinical trials published since 1980. Many options exist for the treatment of patients with SCCHN. The most important decisions involve determining which patients are in need of treatment and which are most likely to benefit from treatment. Although many chemotherapy treatments have been shown to induce responses, survival improvement remains an unfulfilled goal. Definitive data do not exist on the effects of chemotherapy on quality of life or progression-free survival as measures of clinical benefit in this setting. Performance status, history of prior treatment, extent of tumor, and need for palliation are the most important factors in the decision to treat a patient with chemotherapy for incurable SCCHN. Single-agent treatment with conventional doses of methotrexate remains a standard for most patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic SCCHN. Cisplatin plus fluorouracil, cisplatin plus a taxane, and single-agent taxane are the most widely studied alternatives. There is a need for further trials with end points other than overall survival or tumor response in this patient population. Guidelines for patient selection and treatment options are provided.

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