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Preventing Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Name of the Trial

Phase III Randomized Study of Palifermin for Reducing Oral Mucositis in Patients with Locally Advanced Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oral Cavity, Oropharynx, Hypopharynx, or Larynx Undergoing Concurrent Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy (RTOG-0435). See the protocol summary.

Principal Investigator

Dr. David I. Rosenthal
Dr. David I. Rosenthal
Principal Investigator

Dr. David I. Rosenthal, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.

Why This Trial Is Important

Nonsurgical treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancer usually involves a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy). Unfortunately, both the disease and its treatment are associated with serious oral complications. A common side effect of chemoradiotherapy is oral mucositis, inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat that can cause painful sores. Severe oral mucositis can lead to delays in treatment, difficulty in eating and speaking, and life-threatening infections.

Palifermin has been approved by the FDA to prevent and treat mucositis in patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy for leukemia or lymphoma. It promotes the growth of mucosal cells lining the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and helps replace cells damaged by cancer treatment.

In this trial, patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy for advanced head and neck cancer will receive intravenous palifermin or placebo before and during cancer treatment.

"Chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer has led to significant improvements in survival, but those improvements have come at the cost of greater incidence of oropharyngeal mucositis, the most common reason for unplanned treatment interruptions," said Dr. Rosenthal. "Based on preclinical data and its proven efficacy in leukemia and lymphoma, palifermin is the most promising agent for reducing the burden of mucositis for head and neck cancer patients."

Contact Information

This trial is no longer accepting patients. To locate other clinical trials for head and neck cancer, search the NCI database of clinical trials or call the NCI Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). The call is toll free and confidential.

  • Posted: March 20, 2007
  • Updated: June 17, 2008