The 19 patients enrolled in the study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor received an initial dose of induction chemotherapy. Among these patients, additional chemotherapy combined with radiation treatment was administered only in those whose cancer had shrunk by one half. Patients whose cancer did not respond well to the initial chemotherapy underwent surgery and then radiation treatment.
However, because of poor results of the treatments, enrollment in the trial was discontinued.
Of the 19 patients, 10 responded to the initial dose of chemotherapy; however, of these, only 3 were cancer free 5 years later. The remaining 9 patients who had received the surgery after the induction chemotherapy only had 2 had no sign of cancer 5 years later.
By comparison, another group of patients underwent surgery and reconstruction then followed by radiation therapy. The survival rate of this group was significantly higher than those who had undergone the induction chemotherapy.
Douglas Chepeha, MD, MSPH, study author and professor of otolaryngology, commented, ?The mouth is a very sensitive area. We know the immune system is critical in oral cavity cancer, and chemotherapy suppresses the immune system.
?If a person is already debilitated, [he or she doesn?t] do well with chemotherapy. Despite the proven success of this strategy in laryngeal cancer, induction chemotherapy should not be an option for oral cavity cancer, and, in fact, it results in worse treatment-related complications compared [with] surgery,? Dr. Chepeha said.
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