Delay to surgery after neoadjuvant chemotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma affects oncologic outcomes

Kimberley L. Kiong, Christopher M.K.L. Yao, Fang Yu Lin, Diana Bell, Renata Ferrarotto, Randal S. Weber, Carol M. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) is used in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) for downstaging advanced disease and decreasing distant metastasis (DM). To the authors' knowledge, no study has specifically examined the impact of a delayed time to surgery (TTS) after NAC on oncologic outcomes. They thus aimed to identify a cutoff for TTS after NAC and its effect on survival indices. Methods: This was a retrospective review of all patients with HNSCC receiving NAC followed by surgery with curative intent between March 2016 and March 2019 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was used to identify a cutoff for TTS, and this cutoff was used to analyze the overall survival (OS), locoregional recurrence rate, DM-free rate, and disease-free survival (DFS). A multivariate Cox regression analysis was performed. Results: One hundred one patients were analyzed with a median follow-up of 24.7 months. The 3-year OS and locoregional recurrence rates did not differ with a TTS ≥ 34 days. However, the 3-year DM-free rate was significantly worse (56% vs 90%; P =.001) in the group with a TTS ≥ 34 days, and the 3-year DFS was significantly lower (26% vs 64%; P =.006). In a multivariate analysis, a TTS ≥ 34 days (hazard ratio [HR], 4.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.84-13.13) and extracapsular extension (HR, 3.01; 95% CI, 1.13-8.00) were significant independent predictors of a poorer DM-free rate. Weight loss > 10% (HR, 5.53; 95% CI, 1.02-30.24) was the only independent predictor for a TTS ≥ 34 days. Conclusions: Emphasis should be placed on early definitive locoregional treatment after NAC, particularly in patients who do not respond to NAC. There is a need to validate these findings and establish new benchmarks for the interval between NAC and surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1984-1992
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021


  • chemotherapy
  • head and neck neoplasms
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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