The aim of this multicenter trial was to test the feasibility and the activity of a three-drug combination where paclitaxel is added to cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil. Patients with metastatic or relapsed SCC-HN unsuitable for further locoregional radical treatment, not previously treated with chemotherapy, were eligible to receive paclitaxel 160 mg/m2 (3-hr infusion) day 1, CDDP 25 mg/m2/day and 5-FU 250 mg/m2/day bolus on days 1, 2, 3 every three weeks up to a maximum of five courses. Fourty-seven patients were enrolled by five Institutions in Italy. Main grade III-IV toxicities were: neutropenia (48%), thrombocytopenia (6%), anemia (4%), diarrhea (2%), mucositis (2%). Six patients had a complete response (13.3%) and eight a partial response (17.8%). Median progression free survival and overall survival are 4.1 and 7.9 months. One-year progression free survival and overall survival are 16% and 29%. This three-drug regimen has an excellent safety profile. The activity in the palliation of recurrent SCC-HN, however, does not appear to be improved in comparison with cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil or cisplatin and paclitaxel regimens. Recent studies indicate a more promising role of taxanes including triplets in the induction therapy of previously untreated patients.
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