Purpose: To evaluate the outcome of elderly patients with head and neck cancer undergoing palliative chemotherapy. Patients and Methods: We analyzed combined data from two mature phase III randomized trials conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG; trial E1393, which compared cisplatin plus paclitaxel at two dose levels, and trial E1395, which compared cisplatin plus fluorouracil to cisplatin plus paclitaxel) to evaluate the toxicity, objective response rates, and survival of patients 70 years or older versus their younger counterparts. All patients had previously untreated recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and ECOG performance status 0 or 1. Results: Fifty-three elderly patients were enrolled from a total of 399 eligible participants (13%). Elderly patients had similar objective response rates (28% v 33%) and median time to progression (5.25 v 4.8 months) compared with younger patients. The median survival was 5.3 v 8 months (Wilcoxon P = .06; log-rank P = .17) and the 1-year survival 26% v 33% for elderly and younger patients, respectively. Elderly patients had a significantly higher incidence of severe nephrotoxicity, diarrhea, and thrombocytopenia. A higher rate of toxic deaths was noted in the elderly but did not reach statistical significance (13% v 8%; P = .29). Conclusion: Elderly patients were underrepresented in these studies. Fit elderly patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer sustained increased toxicities with cisplatin-based doublets but had comparable survival outcomes compared with younger patients. Strategies to ameliorate toxicities should be pursued in the elderly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research