Association of Disease Recurrence with Survival Outcomes in Patients with Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck Treated with Multimodality Therapy

Lillian Sun, Re I. Chin, Brian Gastman, Wade Thorstad, Sue S. Yom, Chandana A. Reddy, Brian Nussenbaum, Steven J. Wang, Thomas Knackstedt, Allison T. Vidimos, Shlomo A. Koyfman, Bindu V. Manyam

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22 Scopus citations


Importance: It has previously been demonstrated that immunosuppressed patients with cutaneous squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (cSCC-HN) treated with surgery and postoperative radiotherapy have significantly inferior disease-related outcomes compared with immunocompetent patients, but data on outcomes after disease recurrence are limited. Objectives: To report survival outcomes in patients with cSCC-HN after disease recurrence after surgery and postoperative radiotherapy and to investigate the association of immune status with disease-related outcomes. Design, Setting, and Participants: A multi-institutional study of 205 patients treated at the Cleveland Clinic, Washington University in St Louis, and the University of California, San Francisco, in which patients who underwent surgical resection and postoperative radiotherapy for primary or recurrent stage I to IV (nonmetastatic) cSCC-HN between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 2014, were identified. Patients with any disease recurrence, defined as local, regional, and/or distant failure, were included. Patients were categorized as immunosuppressed if they received a diagnosis of chronic hematologic malignant neoplasm or HIV or AIDS, or were treated with immunosuppressive therapy for organ transplantation 6 months or more before diagnosis. Statistical analysis was conducted from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2015. Main Outcomes and Measures: Overall survival calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using the log-rank test. Results: Of the 205 patients in the original cohort, 72 patients (63 men and 9 women; median age, 71 years [range, 43-91 years]) developed disease recurrence after surgery and postoperative radiotherapy. Forty patients (55.6%) were immunosuppressed, and 32 patients (44.4%) were immunocompetent. Locoregional recurrence was the most common first pattern of failure for both groups (31 immunosuppressed patients [77.5%]; 21 immunocompetent patients [65.6%]). After any recurrence, 1-year overall survival was 43.2% (95% CI, 30.9%-55.4%), and median survival was 8.4 months. For patients for whom information on salvage treatment was available (n = 45), those not amenable to surgical salvage had significantly poorer median cumulative incidence of survival compared with those who were amenable to surgical salvage (4.7 months; 95% CI, 3.7-7.0 months vs 26.1 months; 95% CI, 6.6 months to not reached; P =.01), regardless of their immune status. Conclusions and Relevance: Results of this study suggest that patients with cSCC-HN who experience disease recurrence after definitive treatment with surgery and postoperative radiotherapy have poor survival, irrespective of immune status. Survival rates are low for patients with recurrent disease that is not amenable to surgical salvage. The low rate of successful salvage underscores the importance of intensifying upfront treatment to prevent recurrence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-447
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


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