Treatment method improves survival for advanced laryngeal cancer, U-M study finds

Chemotherapy and radiation can be effective at treating cancer of the larynx, or voice box, without removing the organ that controls speech and swallowing. But it doesn't work for everyone.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that determining early into treatment which patients would benefit from the chemoradiation treatment and which would be better off having surgery led to better survival rates than typically expected for this type of cancer.

"Approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of patients with advanced laryngeal cancer will not be cured with chemotherapy and radiation. The survival rates for such patients have traditionally been poor. That's why these patients should be identified as early as possible. When we did that, we found that the survival rate for these patients was markedly improved, as was the survival rate for the group of patients who were successfully treated with chemotherapy and radiation," says study author Gregory Wolf, M.D., professor and chair of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School.

The study appears in the Feb. 1, 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study looked at 97 patients with advanced-stage laryngeal cancer. The larynx, or voice box, plays a role in breathing, swallowing and talking. Traditional treatment for this type of cancer has been surgery to remove the voice box or part of the voice box, leading to significant quality of life concerns.

In this study, patients began with six days of chemotherapy, after which they were examined to see whether the cancer had shrunk. Tumors shrank by more than half in three-quarters of the patients. These patients then went on to receive radiation therapy five days a week for six to seven weeks, with additional chemotherapy administered once every three weeks.

The 25 percent of patients whose cancer did not respond to the initial chemotherapy were immediately considered for surgery at tha

Contact: Nicole Fawcett
University of Michigan Health System

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