Docetaxel (Taxotere) is Effective in Heavily Pretreated Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Patients

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It is well-established that nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a chemo-responsive disease.  Despite improved outcome with chemo-radiation (platimum-based chemotherapy with radiation), treatment failure continue to be a problem in patients with locally advanced Stage III/IV disease. 

Now, a new study published in the Annals of Oncology suggested that nasopharyngeal cancer patients who have failed platinum-based chemotherapy (such as oxaliplatin-Eloxatin) have another treatment option. 

Thirty patients with confirmed metastatic or recurrent NPC who have failed at least one line of palliative chemotherapy regimen were given weekly docetaxel every 28 days and were evaluated for responses. 

37% of the patients achieved partial response and 13.3% of the patients achieved stable disease. 

 The medium overall survival and the median survival without disease progression were 12.8 months and 3.5 months respectively. 

Grade 3 or 4 toxicity associated with docetaxel included fatigue (13%), anemia (10%) and diarrhea (3%).  

Even though the response and the survival time were impressive, docetaxel caused a significant decline in quality of life scores. 

This study suggested that weekly docetaxel is an effective treatment option for patients with disseminated NPC who are refractory to platinum-based chemotherapy.  However, patients who are thinking of receiving docetaxel should weight the benefit of extending survival against a decline in quality of life. 

Source:  Annals of Oncology 22; 718-722, 2011 

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