The role of neck dissection after chemoradiotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer with advanced nodal disease

G. L. Clayman, C. J. Johnson, W. Morrison, L. Ginsberg, S. M. Lippman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To analyze and compare the effectiveness of sequential platinum-based chemotherapy and radiotherapy with and without selective neck dissection in patients with N2a and greater stage node-positive squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx. Design: Nonrandomized controlled trial. Setting: Tertiary referral center. Patients: Sixty-six patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx staged N2a or greater. Interventions: Platinum-based induction chemotherapy followed by definitive radiation therapy; and selective neck dissections 6 to 10 weeks following the completion of radiation therapy in patients with radiographic evidence suggesting residual neck disease. Main Outcome Measures: Locoregional recurrence and disease-free survival. Results: Of 66 patients, 24 (36%) had complete responses in the primary local tumor (oropharynx) and regional disease (neck nodes), as assessed clinically and radiographically. These patients had lower rates of locoregional recurrence than did patients showing no or partial responses, but the differences were not significant (P>.05). Of 18 patients undergoing neck dissection, 10 (56%) had pathological evidence of residual tumor. Patients showing a complete response of regional and neck disease had significantly improved disease-specific and overall survival (P = .01 for both) compared with patients showing no or partial responses of their neck disease. Patients with no or partial responses who underwent neck dissections had significantly improved overall survival compared with similar patients who did not undergo neck dissections (P = .002). Conclusions: Even in patients with bulky nodal disease, a complete response in the neck to sequential chemotherapy and radiotherapy may indicate that neck surgery is not necessary for good locoregional control and improved disease-free survival. Neck dissection is recommended for patients with no or partial radiographic responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-139
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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