Phase III Randomized Trial of Chemotherapy With or Without Bevacizumab in Patients With Recurrent or Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer

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Journal of Clinical Oncology


Purpose: We evaluated the addition of bevacizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets vascular endothelial growth factor, to platinum-based chemotherapy in recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

Patients and methods: Patients with chemotherapy-naïve (or with prior platinum as part of multimodal therapy completed ≥ 4 months earlier) recurrent or metastatic SCCHN were randomly assigned to receive a platinum-based chemotherapy doublet with or without bevacizumab 15 mg/kg given intravenously every 3 weeks until disease progression. Chemotherapy could be discontinued after six cycles if a maximum response was achieved.

Results: The study randomly assigned 403 patients. Median overall survival (OS) was 12.6 months with bevacizumab plus chemotherapy (BC) and 11.0 months with chemotherapy alone (hazard ratio, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.70 to 1.09; P = .22). At 2, 3, and 4 years, the OS rates were 25.2% v 18.1%, 16.4% v 10.0%, and 11.8% v 6.4% for BC versus chemotherapy, respectively. In an analysis of 365 eligible patients who started treatment, the hazard ratio was 0.82 (95% CI, 0.65 to 1.04; P = .10), with a median OS of 14.2 months on BC v 11.1 months on chemotherapy. Median progression-free survival with BC was 6.0 months v 4.3 months with chemotherapy (P = .0014). Overall response rates were 35.5% with BC and 24.5% with chemotherapy (P = .016). There was increased toxicity, including a higher rate of treatment-related grade 3 to 5 bleeding events (6.7% v 0.5%; P < .001) and treatment-related deaths (9.3% v 3.5%; P = .022) with BC versus chemotherapy.

Conclusion: The addition of bevacizumab to chemotherapy did not improve OS but improved the response rate and progression-free survival with increased toxicities. These results encourage biomarker-driven studies of angiogenesis inhibitors with better toxicity profiles in select patients with SCCHN.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00588770.

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Publication Date

Winter 12-1-2019