A trial looking at radiotherapy and chemotherapy for head and neck cancer (UKHAN1)

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Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers

Status:

Results

Phase:

Other

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.

Doctors already used surgery or radiotherapy to treat head and neck cancer. Some people had both types of treatment.

Researchers had also looked at chemotherapy, but were not sure how well it worked for this type of cancer. And they wanted to learn more about the side effects.

The aims of this trial were to see if chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy helped people with locally advanced Open a glossary item head and neck cancer. And to see if chemotherapy after radiotherapy, or after a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, also helped.

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 (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor J Tobias

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
University College London (UCL)

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/90/004.

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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 203

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

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“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

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