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Drug Combo Helps Larynx Cancer Patients Preserve Voice Box

Adding third medicine to standard therapy made the difference, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- People with cancer of the larynx who received a three-drug chemotherapy combination were more likely to keep their larynx than those who received a two-drug treatment, French researchers report.

Their study compared treatment with a combination of three drugs -- docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluoruracil (TPF) -- during induction chemotherapy, against a combination of cisplatin and 5-fluoruracil (PF).

PF chemotherapy followed by radiation is commonly used as an alternative to surgery in the treatment of patients with locally advanced larynx (voice box) and hypopharynx cancer. Recent research has suggested that adding docetaxel to PF might further improve patient outcomes, according to background information in a news release about study.

The trial included 213 patients with advanced larynx and hypopharynx cancer. Those who responded to chemotherapy had follow-up radiation therapy and those who didn't respond to the chemotherapy had surgery.

After a median follow-up of three years, larynx preservation rates were just over 70 percent in the three-drug group and 57.5 percent for those on the two-drug regimen. Overall, 80 percent of patients in the TPF group responded to therapy, compared with a little more than 59 percent in the PF group. Patients in the TPF group experienced more severe infections than those in the PF group.

TPF was superior for patients with locally advanced cancers of the larynx and hypopharynx and this treatment can help more patients avoid total laryngectomy (removal of the voicebox), concluded the researchers at the Centre Hospitalier Regional et Universitaire de Tours.

However, they added that because the study was limited to patients with only larynx and hypopharynx cancer and was specially designed for organ preservation, "we cannot generalize the findings to all locally advanced head and neck cancers."

The study appears in the March 24 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, March 24, 2009

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