Background: The standard of care for first-line treatment of recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (R/M SCCHN) is combination treatment with platinum, 5-FU and cetuximab (PFE). However, this regimen requires hospitalization to ensure proper hydration and continuous infusion of 5-FU, and causes severe nausea and anorexia. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of paclitaxel, carboplatin and cetuximab (PCE) as first-line treatment in patients with R/M SCCHN. Patients and methods: Eligibility criteria included recurrent and/or metastatic, histologically proven SCC of the oropharynx, oral cavity, hypopharynx or larynx; PS 0-1; adequate organ function; no suitable local therapy for R/M SCCHN; and no prior systemic chemotherapy for R/M SCCHN. Chemotherapy consisted of paclitaxel 100 mg/m2 on days 1, 8; carboplatin area under the blood concentration-time curve 2.5 on days 1, 8, repeated every 3 weeks for up to 6 cycles; and cetuximab at an initial dose of 400 mg/m2, followed by 250 mg/m2 weekly until disease progression or unacceptable toxicities. Primary end point was overall response rate. Secondary end points were safety, treatment completion rate, progression-free survival, overall survival, and clinical benefit rate. Planned sample size was 45 patients. Results: Forty-seven subjects were accrued from July 2013 to October 2014. Of 45 evaluable, 40 were male; median age was 63 years; Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status was 0/1 in 23/22 cases; site was the hypopharynx/ oropharynx/oral cavity/larynx in 17/11/10/7 cases; and 36/9 cases were smokers/nonsmokers, respectively. Overall response rate, the primary end point, was 40%. Median overall survival was 14.7 months and progression-free survival was 5.2 months. Grade 3/4 adverse events included neutropenia (68%), skin reaction (15%), fatigue (9%) and febrile neutropenia (9%). A potentially treatment-related death occurred in one patient with intestinal pneumonia. Conclusions: The PCE regimen shows promising activity with acceptable toxicity in the outpatient clinic. Further studies are needed to compare PCE with PFE in this population.
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