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Cancer Health Center

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Hypopharyngeal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage IV Hypopharyngeal Cancer


Unresectable Hypopharyngeal Cancer

Standard treatment options:

  1. These patients are candidates for radiation therapy.
  2. Chemotherapy has been combined with radiation therapy in patients who have locally advanced disease.[9,10,11] In a randomized trial, the 3-year projected OS for patients with stage III or stage IV inoperable disease receiving single daily fractionated radiation with concurrent cisplatin was 37% (P = .14).[11][Level of evidence:1iiA]

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

  • Radiation therapy clinical trials evaluating hyperfractionation schedules should be considered with chemotherapy.[12,13,14,15,16,17]

    A meta-analysis of 63 randomized prospective trials published between 1965 and 1993 showed an 8% absolute survival advantage in the subset of patients receiving concomitant chemotherapy and radiation therapy.[18][Level of evidence: 2A] Patients receiving adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy had no survival advantage. Cost, quality of life, and morbidity data were not available; no standard regimen existed; and the trials were too heterogenous to provide definitive recommendations. The results of ongoing trials may further clarify the role of concomitant chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the management of hypopharyngeal cancer.

The best chemotherapy to use and the appropriate way to integrate the two modalities is still unresolved.[19]

Posttreatment follow-up:

  • These patients should have a careful head and neck examination, looking for recurrence monthly for the first posttreatment year, every 2 months for the second year, every 3 months the third year, and every 6 months thereafter.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IV hypopharyngeal cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Arriagada R, Eschwege F, Cachin Y, et al.: The value of combining radiotherapy with surgery in the treatment of hypopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. Cancer 51 (10): 1819-25, 1983.
  2. Tupchong L, Scott CB, Blitzer PH, et al.: Randomized study of preoperative versus postoperative radiation therapy in advanced head and neck carcinoma: long-term follow-up of RTOG study 73-03. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 20 (1): 21-8, 1991.
  3. Harari PM: Why has induction chemotherapy for advanced head and neck cancer become a United States community standard of practice? J Clin Oncol 15 (5): 2050-5, 1997.
  4. Lefebvre JL, Chevalier D, Luboinski B, et al.: Larynx preservation in pyriform sinus cancer: preliminary results of a European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer phase III trial. EORTC Head and Neck Cancer Cooperative Group. J Natl Cancer Inst 88 (13): 890-9, 1996.
  5. Beauvillain C, Mahé M, Bourdin S, et al.: Final results of a randomized trial comparing chemotherapy plus radiotherapy with chemotherapy plus surgery plus radiotherapy in locally advanced resectable hypopharyngeal carcinomas. Laryngoscope 107 (5): 648-53, 1997.
  6. Bachaud JM, Cohen-Jonathan E, Alzieu C, et al.: Combined postoperative radiotherapy and weekly cisplatin infusion for locally advanced head and neck carcinoma: final report of a randomized trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 36 (5): 999-1004, 1996.
  7. Adelstein DJ, Lavertu P, Saxton JP, et al.: Mature results of a phase III randomized trial comparing concurrent chemoradiotherapy with radiation therapy alone in patients with stage III and IV squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Cancer 88 (4): 876-83, 2000.
  8. Bernier J, Domenge C, Ozsahin M, et al.: Postoperative irradiation with or without concomitant chemotherapy for locally advanced head and neck cancer. N Engl J Med 350 (19): 1945-52, 2004.
  9. Al-Sarraf M, Pajak TF, Marcial VA, et al.: Concurrent radiotherapy and chemotherapy with cisplatin in inoperable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. An RTOG Study. Cancer 59 (2): 259-65, 1987.
  10. Merlano M, Benasso M, Corvò R, et al.: Five-year update of a randomized trial of alternating radiotherapy and chemotherapy compared with radiotherapy alone in treatment of unresectable squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. J Natl Cancer Inst 88 (9): 583-9, 1996.
  11. Adelstein DJ, Li Y, Adams GL, et al.: An intergroup phase III comparison of standard radiation therapy and two schedules of concurrent chemoradiotherapy in patients with unresectable squamous cell head and neck cancer. J Clin Oncol 21 (1): 92-8, 2003.
  12. Weissler MC, Melin S, Sailer SL, et al.: Simultaneous chemoradiation in the treatment of advanced head and neck cancer. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 118 (8): 806-10, 1992.
  13. Jeremic B, Shibamoto Y, Milicic B, et al.: Hyperfractionated radiation therapy with or without concurrent low-dose daily cisplatin in locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: a prospective randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 18 (7): 1458-64, 2000.
  14. Staar S, Rudat V, Stuetzer H, et al.: Intensified hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy limits the additional benefit of simultaneous chemotherapy--results of a multicentric randomized German trial in advanced head-and-neck cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 50 (5): 1161-71, 2001.
  15. Wendt TG, Grabenbauer GG, Rödel CM, et al.: Simultaneous radiochemotherapy versus radiotherapy alone in advanced head and neck cancer: a randomized multicenter study. J Clin Oncol 16 (4): 1318-24, 1998.
  16. Brizel DM, Albers ME, Fisher SR, et al.: Hyperfractionated irradiation with or without concurrent chemotherapy for locally advanced head and neck cancer. N Engl J Med 338 (25): 1798-804, 1998.
  17. Semrau R, Mueller RP, Stuetzer H, et al.: Efficacy of intensified hyperfractionated and accelerated radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy with carboplatin and 5-fluorouracil: updated results of a randomized multicentric trial in advanced head-and-neck cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 64 (5): 1308-16, 2006.
  18. Pignon JP, Bourhis J, Domenge C, et al.: Chemotherapy added to locoregional treatment for head and neck squamous-cell carcinoma: three meta-analyses of updated individual data. MACH-NC Collaborative Group. Meta-Analysis of Chemotherapy on Head and Neck Cancer. Lancet 355 (9208): 949-55, 2000.
  19. Taylor SG 4th, Murthy AK, Vannetzel JM, et al.: Randomized comparison of neoadjuvant cisplatin and fluorouracil infusion followed by radiation versus concomitant treatment in advanced head and neck cancer. J Clin Oncol 12 (2): 385-95, 1994.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: 8/, 015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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