Conference Coverage

Cisplatin Is Associated With Prolonged Progression-Free Survival Compared With Cetuximab Among Veteran Patients With Stage 3 And 4 Head and Neck Cancer

Hill J, Shields J, Liman A.

Abstract 26: 2014 AVAHO Meeting


Purpose: Concurrent cisplatin and radiation is currently the preferred therapy for stage 3 and 4 head and neck cancer. However, patient tolerability is poor. Concurrent cetuximab and radiation, on the other hand, is well tolerated. However, head-to-head comparative studies with cisplatin are lacking. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy, tolerability, and total health care costs of cisplatin- and cetuximab-based regimens among veteran patients with head and neck cancer.

Methods and Materials: We conducted a retrospective study of patients with stage 3 and 4 head and neck cancer at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System from 2009-2013. Patients were included if they had biopsy-proven disease treated with cisplatin or cetuximab (both with concurrent radiation). Patients receiving adjuvant chemoradiation, those with non-squamous cell carcinoma, or carcinoma of the nasopharynx were excluded. Baseline characteristics were compared by chi-square or Fisher’s exact tests for categorical variables and by Mann-Whitney for continuous variables. The primary outcome was average chemotherapy dose intensity. Secondary outcomes included progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) , which were compared by Kaplan-Meier and the log-rank test. Results: Fifty-two patients were included; 30 received cisplatin and 22 cetuximab. Patients who received cetuximab were older (median age, 66 vs 63; P = .04) and more likely to have diabetes (36% vs 7%; P = .01) and a CrCl 2 (9 vs 7; P = .33) were comparable between both groups. Patients were followed for a median of 29 months (range 0.4-64). Average chemotherapy dose intensity was lower for cisplatin (88% vs 96%; P = .03). Progression-free survival was longer among cisplatin patients (median 21 months, range 0-57) compared with that of cetuximab (median 17 months, range 1-52; P = 0.03) and did not vary among patients who did or did not receive 100% chemotherapy dose-intensity cisplatin (median 18 vs 27 months; P = .16). There was no difference in OS (31 vs 18 months, P = .19). Neutropenia (47% vs 0%; P ≤ .0001), dehydration (33% vs 0%; P = .003), nausea/vomiting (30% vs 0%; P = .07), and hypotension (23% vs 0%; P = .02) were higher among cisplatin patients. Rash was more common with cetuximab (64% vs 7%; P ≤ .0001). The average health care costs were $3,495 and $27,148 for cisplatin and cetuximab, respectively.

Conclusions: Among veterans with stage 3 or 4 head and neck cancer, treatment with cisplatin-based chemotherapy is associated with PFS compared with cetuximab-based regimens despite cisplatin patients receiving only 88% of chemotherapy. Patients who received cetuximab experienced fewer adverse effects. However, total health care costs were significantly higher. Our data suggest that cisplatin should remain the front-line therapy for stage 3 and 4 head and neck cancer. Cetuximab is best reserved for patients who are intolerant of or have a contraindication to cisplatin.

Recommended Reading

Second Primary Tumors and Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
Guidelines for Thyroid Nodule Evaluation
Eruptive Collagenomas, Suprasellar Meningioma, and Elevated Prolactin in a Patient With a History of Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma
Incorporation of Palliative Care With Chemotherapy and Radiation in Patients Treated for Head and Neck Cancer
Incidence of Second Primary Malignancies in Patients Treated for Thyroid Cancer: A Review of 51 Cases