13-cis retinoic acid in head and neck cancer chemoprevention: Results of a randomized trial from the Italian Head and Neck Chemoprevention Study Group

Salvatore S. Toma, Luigina Bonelli, Alberto Sartoris, Eugenio Mira, Antonio Antonelli, Fabio Beatrice, Carlo Giordano, Marco Benazzo, Angelo Caroggio, Andrea Luigi Cavalot, Sergio Gandolfo, Aldo Garozzo, Giovanni Margarino, Guido Schenone, Nicoletta Spadini, Zuzana Sirotovà, Francesco Zibordi, Fabrizio Balzarini, Italo Serafini, Piero MianiGiorgio Cortesina

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Patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) after being treated radically remain at high risk for both recurrent and second primary tumours. 13-cis retinoic acid (13-cRA) was demonstrated to reverse premalignant lesions of the oral cavity and to reduce the incidence of second primary tumours in patients treated radically for HNSCC. Synergism between retinoids and interferon in tumoural cell lines have been demonstrated. Based on these data, the Italian Head and Neck Chemoprevention Study Group started a randomized chemoprevention study in patients radically treated for stage III and IV HNSCC. From February 1992 to January 1996, 267 patients were randomized: 126 were allocated to the control group, 126 were randomized to receive 13-cRA at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg per day per os and 15 patients have been assigned to the group of 13-cRA plus interferon α2a (IFN-α2a) at a dose of 3,000,000 UI 3 times a week (randomization in this arm interrupted due to administrative financial problems). The mean follow-up was 39 months. The 5-year actuarial survival was 58.9% for patients of the 13-cRA group and 57.2% for those of the control group (P=0.94). Among evaluable patients, disease progression was observed in 45 of 123 patients (36.6%) of the 13-cRA group and in 42 of 124 (33.9%) of the control group. The 5-year actuarial relapse-free survival was 48.9% for the 13-cRA group and 55.6% for the control group (P=0.62). Adverse effects, mostly of grade I were reported in 69.4% of treated patients (haematologic disorders, mucositis, conjunctivitis, cutaneous toxicity, hypertriglyceridemia and hypercholesterolemia). Only 5 patients (4.1%) reported grade III-IV toxicity. Low-dose of 13-cRA given for 1 year is ineffective as chemoprevention in patients with radically treated HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1297-1305
Number of pages9
JournalOncology Reports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004



  • 13-cis retinoic acid
  • Chemoprevention
  • Head and neck
  • Interferon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

Cite this

Toma, S. S., Bonelli, L., Sartoris, A., Mira, E., Antonelli, A., Beatrice, F., Giordano, C., Benazzo, M., Caroggio, A., Cavalot, A. L., Gandolfo, S., Garozzo, A., Margarino, G., Schenone, G., Spadini, N., Sirotovà, Z., Zibordi, F., Balzarini, F., Serafini, I., ... Cortesina, G. (2004). 13-cis retinoic acid in head and neck cancer chemoprevention: Results of a randomized trial from the Italian Head and Neck Chemoprevention Study Group. Oncology Reports, 11(6), 1297-1305.