Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at radiotherapy and chemotherapy for head and neck cancer (UKHAN1)
This trial looked at having chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy for head and neck cancer that had spread into surrounding body tissue. It also looked at having chemotherapy after radiotherapy. This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
The aims of this trial were to see if chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy helped people with
Summary of results
The researchers found that having radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time lowered the risk of the cancer coming back or new cancers developing. But having chemotherapy after radiotherapy did not help.
The trial recruited 966 people with locally advanced head and neck cancer. Some had already had surgery to remove the cancer, but others had not. Everybody taking part had a course of radiotherapy between 3 weeks and 3 and a half weeks long.
The people who hadn’t had surgery were put into 1 of 4 groups.
- Group 1 had radiotherapy alone
- Group 2 had radiotherapy with chemotherapy on days 1 and 14
- Group 3 had radiotherapy, then had chemotherapy 2 weeks and 4 weeks later
- Group 4 had radiotherapy with chemotherapy on days and 1 and 14, and then had chemotherapy again 2 and 4 weeks later
The average length of time that people lived after treatment was
- About 2 and a half years in group 1
- More than 4 and a half years in group 2
- Just under 2 and a half years in group 3
- Just over 2 and a half years in group 4
The number of people with bad side effects was highest in group 4 and lowest in group 1. The most common side effect was a sore mouth.
People who had already had surgery to remove the cancer had either radiotherapy alone, or radiotherapy and chemotherapy on days 1 and 14.
- People who had radiotherapy alone lived for an average of 5 years after treatment
- People who had radiotherapy and chemotherapy lived for an average of just over 4 and a half years
1 in 5 people (20%) who had radiotherapy and chemotherapy had bad side effects. But this was less than 1 in 10 (9%) in the group who had radiotherapy alone.
After 10 years of follow up, the researchers found that having radiotherapy and chemotherapy together helped people with locally advanced head and neck cancer to live longer. But having chemotherapy after radiotherapy did not help. They also found that chemotherapy did not help people who had already had surgery.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor J Tobias
Cancer Research UK
University College London (UCL)
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/90/004.