Analysis of 473 US Head and Neck Cancer Trials (1996-2014): Trends, Gaps, and Opportunities

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To report on types of investigations being conducted in US clinical trials, the types of therapeutic investigations that predominate, and the publication rates.

Study Design

Retrospective analysis.


US head and neck cancer clinical trials.

Subjects and Methods

We used the information available on to identify trends in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma clinical trials to characterize the types of trials and treatments being investigated. The publication rate for these trials was also examined with


Of the 473 trials analyzed, similar drug regimens have been used repeatedly in head and neck cancer clinical trials. Drug studies are highly represented, composing 62% of all trials. The most common drugs studied were cisplatin, cetuximab, and docetaxel. Among all head and neck cancer clinical trials, 33% included radiation therapy in their treatment, while 10% included a surgical component. Forty-nine percent of trials had their results published in a medical journal, and 70% of the publications reported positive results.


Head and neck cancer trials are heavily weighted toward drug trials and demonstrate redundancy. Other therapies are underrepresented, especially surgery. There is a gap between the trials conducted and the rate of reporting, with an emphasis on positive results. Better balance in studying treatment modalities, less redundancy in clinical trials, and reporting all results have potential benefits for head and neck cancer and the public good.

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