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J Clin Oncol. 1997 Sep;15(9):3100-10.

Induction chemotherapy with cisplatin, fluorouracil, and high-dose leucovorin for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: long-term results.

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Division of Clinical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



A phase II trial of cisplatin, fluorouracil, and leucovorin (PFL) induction chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck region (HNCA).


One hundred two patients (stage III/IV, previously untreated) were treated with induction PFL. Patients with resectable primary tumor site lesions and clinical complete response (CR) were offered radiotherapy (RT) without surgery to the primary tumor site. Response, toxicity, local-regional therapy, survival, and preservation of the primary tumor site were assessed.


Among 279 courses, the overall response rate was 81%. Nineteen (19%) failed to respond, including three who died during therapy. Sixty-seven (69%) of 97 with assessable primary lesions had a clinical CR at the primary tumor site. Pathologic CR was recorded in 46 of 55 (84%) clinical CR patients who had biopsies performed on the primary tumor site. Toxicities resulted in unexpected hospitalizations in 19% of cases. After definitive local-regional therapy, 84 (82%) were disease-free including 71 (69%) with preserved primary tumor site anatomy. With a median follow-up time of 63 months, the cause-specific, overall (OS), and failure-free survival (FFS) rates at 5 years are 58%, 52%, and 51%. Local failure occurred in 29 of 102 (29%) and the local control rate at 5 years was 68%.


PFL has significant activity with acceptable toxicity in patients with advanced disease who have a good performance status. Preservation of the primary tumor site could be achieved without apparent loss of local control or survival. Management of neck disease by surgery or RT must be individualized and separate from management of primary tumor. Survival compares favorably with similar trials of induction chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy.

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