Background: Raltitrexed ('Tomudex') is a folate based inhibitor of thymidylate synthase which has been registered in Europe and Australia for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. In a European phase I trial of raltitrexed anti-tumour activity was seen in two patients with head and neck cancer, prompting the current study. Patients and methods: From November 1996 to December 1998, 24 patients with metastatic or recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck from 7 Australian centres received raltitrexed, 3 mg/m2 given intravenously over 15 minutes every 3 weeks, for a maximum of 6 cycles. Patients were required to be chemotherapy naive and have measurable disease, age > 18 years, WHO performance status initially ≤ 2, no significant intercurrent illness or organ dysfunction and a life expectancy > 12 weeks. Results: Twenty-two men and two women, median age 65 years, median performance status 1 were enrolled. Fifteen patients (63%) had received both prior surgery and radiotherapy. In 15 patients (63%) there was recurrent locoregional disease only. Twelve patients (50%) received one cycle of treatment with only four patients (17%) receiving four or more cycles of treatment. No patient achieved a complete or partial response, although 5 patients experienced stable disease which lasted a median of 188 days (range 61-436). The median survival for the whole group was 101 days (range 20-436). Raltitrexed was generally well tolerated with minimal anti-proliferative toxicity. Conclusions: Single-agent raltitrexed does not demonstrate significant anti-tumour response rates in patients with predominantly locally recurrent head and neck cancer.
- Head and neck cancer
- Phase II trial