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A non-randomised, single-centre comparison of induction chemotherapy followed by radiochemotherapy versus concomitant chemotherapy with hyperfractionated radiotherapy in inoperable head and neck carcinomas

Reinhold Graf1, Bert Hildebrandt2, Wolfgang Tilly1, Hanno Riess2, Roland Felix1, Volker Budach3 and Peter Wust1*

Author Affiliations

1 Clinic for Radiation Medicine, Charité Medical School, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Augustenburger Platz,113353 Berlin, Germany

2 Medical Clinic for Hematology and Oncology, Charité Medical School, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany

3 Clinic for Radiation Oncology, Charité Medical School, Campus Charité Mitte, Schumannstr. 21, 10117 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:30  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-30

Published: 1 February 2006



The application of induction chemotherapy failed to provide a consistent benefit for local control in primary treatment of advanced head and neck (H&N) cancers. The aim of this study was to compare the results of concomitant application of radiochemotherapy for treating locally advanced head-and-neck carcinoma in comparison with the former standard of sequential radiochemotherapy.


Between 1987 and 1995 we treated 122 patients with unresectable (stage IV head and neck) cancer by two different protocols. The sequential protocol (SEQ; 1987–1992) started with two courses of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (cisplatin [CDDP] + 120-h continuous infusions (c.i.) of folinic acid [FA] and 5-fluorouracil [5-FU]), followed by a course of radiochemotherapy using conventional fractionation up to 70 Gy. The concomitant protocol (CON; since 1993) combined two courses of FA/5-FU c.i. plus mitomycin (MMC) concomitantly with a course of radiotherapy up to 30 Gy in conventional fractionation, followed by a hyperfractionated course up to 72 Gy. Results from the two groups were compared.


Patient and tumor characteristics were balanced (SEQ = 70, CON = 52 pts.). Mean radiation dose achieved (65.3 Gy vs. 71.6 Gy, p = 0.00), response rates (67 vs. 90 % for primary, p = 0.02), and local control (LC; 17.6% vs. 41%, p = 0.03), were significantly lower in the SEQ group, revealing a trend towards lower disease-specific (DSS; 19.8% vs. 31.4%, p = 0.08) and overall (14.7% vs. 23.7%, p = 0.11) survival rates after 5 years. Mucositis grades III and IV prevailed in the CON group (54% versus 44%). Late toxicity was similar in both groups.


Concurrent chemotherapy seemed more effective in treating head and neck tumors than induction chemotherapy followed by chemoradiation, resulting in better local control and a trend towards improved survival.