In contrast of available prospective data, most older patients with locoregionally advanced head and neck cancer treated with definitive radiotherapy also receive systemic therapy, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown.1

For the study, researchers sought to investigate the use of systemic therapy with definitive radiotherapy for older patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Therefore, they analyzed data from 4165 patients age 71 years or older who were included in the National Cancer Data Base.

Patients had stage III to IVB squamous cell carcinoma of the nasopharynx, oropharynx, larynx, or hypopharynx and had received definitive radiotherapy with or without systemic therapy.

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Results showed that 80.4% of all patients had received systemic therapy in conjunction with radiotherapy.

After a median follow-up of 26 months, researchers found that the 3-year overall survival rate was 51.6% (95% CI, 50.0-53.2).

The study further revealed an increase in the frequency of systemic therapy use from 64% in 2004 to 86% in 2012.

After adjusting for multiple variables, the use of systemic therapy with definitive radiotherapy was associated with improved overall survival (hazard ratio [HR], 1.456; 95% CI, 1.308-1.620; P <.0001); however, it is unclear at which age patients begin to not experience an overall survival benefit with systemic therapy.


1. Ward MC, Reddy CA, Adelstein DJ, Koyfman SA. Use of systemic therapy with definitive radiotherapy for elderly patients with head and neck cancer: a National Cancer Data Base analysis. Cancer. 2016 Aug 9. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30214. [Epub ahead of print]