VanderWalde NA, Meyer AM, Deal AM, Layton JB, Liu H, Carpenter WR, Weissler MC, Hayes DN, Fleming ME, Chera BS. Effectiveness of chemoradiation for head and neck cancer in an older patient population. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2014 May 1;89(1):30-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2014.01.053

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to compare chemoradiation therapy (CRT) with radiation therapy (RT) only in an older patient population with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database (1992-2007), we identified a retrospective cohort of nonmetastatic HNSCC patients and divided them into treatment groups. Comparisons were made between CRT and RT cohorts. Propensity scores for CRT were estimated from covariates associated with receipt of treatment using multivariable logistic regression. Standardized mortality ratio weights (SMRW) were created from the propensity scores and used to balance groups on measured confounders. Multivariable and SMR-weighted Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) of death for receipt of CRT versus RT among the whole group and for separate patient and tumor categories.

RESULTS: The final cohort of 10,599 patients was 68% male and 89% white. Median age was 74 years. Seventy-four percent were treated with RT, 26% were treated with CRT. Median follow-up points for CRT and RT survivors were 4.6 and 6.3 years, respectively. On multivariable analysis, HR for death with CRT was 1.13 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07-1.20; P<.01). Using the SMRW model, the HR for death with CRT was 1.08 (95% CI: 1.02-1.15; P=.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Although the addition of chemotherapy to radiation has proven efficacious in many randomized controlled trials, it may be less effective in an older patient population treated outside of a controlled trial setting.

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