Survival outcomes with concurrent chemoradiation for elderly patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer according to the National Cancer Data Base

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The overall survival (OS) benefit of concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CRT) for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients older than 70 years is debated. This study examines the outcomes of elderly patients receiving CRT versus radiotherapy (RT) alone.


The National Cancer Data Base was queried for patients older than 70 years with nonmetastatic oropharyngeal, laryngeal, or hypopharyngeal cancer (T3-4 or N(+)). CRT was defined as chemotherapy started within 14 days of the initiation of RT. Univariate analysis, multivariate analysis (MVA), propensity score matching (PSM), and recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) were performed.


The study included 4042 patients: 2538 (63%) received CRT. The median follow-up was 19 months. The unadjusted median OS was longer with the addition of CRT (P < .001). OS was superior with CRT in the MVA (hazard ratio [HR], 0.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58-0.68; P < .001) and PSM analyses (HR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.66-0.80; P < .001) in comparison with RT alone. According to RPA, CRT was associated with longer OS for patients 81 years or younger with low comorbidity scores and either T1-2/N2-3 disease or T3-4/N0-3 disease. The survival benefit with CRT disappeared for 2 subgroups in the 71- to 81-year age range: those with T1-2, N1, and Charlson-Deyo 0-1 (CD0-1) disease and those with T3-4, N1+, and CD1+ disease. Patients who were older than 81 years did not have increased survival with CRT. The receipt of CRT was associated with a longer duration of RT (odds ratio, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.50-2.01; P < .001).


Patients older than 70 years should not be denied concurrent chemotherapy solely on the basis of age; additional factors, including the performance status and the tumor stage, should be taken into account.

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