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      Early-stage squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx: Radiotherapy vs. Trans-Oral Robotic Surgery (ORATOR) – study protocol for a randomized phase II trial

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          The incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) has markedly increased over the last three decades due to newly found associations with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Primary radiotherapy (RT) is the treatment of choice for OPSCC at most centers, and over the last decade, the addition of concurrent chemotherapy has led to a significant improvement in survival, but at the cost of increased acute and late toxicity. Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has emerged as a promising alternative treatment, with preliminary case series demonstrating encouraging oncologic, functional, and quality of life (QOL) outcomes. However, comparisons of TORS and RT in a non-randomized fashion are susceptible to bias. The goal of this randomized phase II study is to compare QOL, functional outcomes, toxicity profiles, and survival following primary RT (± chemotherapy) vs. TORS (± adjuvant [chemo] RT) in patients with OPSCC.


          The target patient population comprises OPSCC patients who would be unlikely to require chemotherapy post-resection: Tumor stage T1-T2 with likely negative margins at surgery; Nodal stage N0-2, ≤3 cm in size, with no evidence of extranodal extension on imaging. Participants will be randomized in a 1:1 ratio between Arm 1 (RT ± chemotherapy) and Arm 2 (TORS ± adjuvant [chemo] RT). In Arm 1, patients with N0 disease will receive RT alone, whereas N1-2 patients will receive concurrent chemoradiation. In Arm 2, patients will undergo TORS along with selective neck dissections, which may be staged. Pathologic high-risk features will be used to determine the requirement for adjuvant radiotherapy +/- chemotherapy. The primary endpoint is QOL score using the M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI), with secondary endpoints including survival, toxicity, other QOL outcomes, and swallowing function. A sample of 68 patients is required.


          This study, if successful, will provide a much-needed randomized comparison of the conventional strategy of primary RT vs. the novel strategy of primary TORS. The trial is designed to provide a definitive QOL comparison between the two arms, and to inform the design of an eventual phase III trial for survival outcomes.

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          Most cited references 10

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          Randomized trial of radiation therapy versus concomitant chemotherapy and radiation therapy for advanced-stage oropharynx carcinoma.

           E Bardet,  G Calais,  C Sire (1999)
          We designed a randomized clinical trial to test whether the addition of three cycles of chemotherapy during standard radiation therapy would improve disease-free survival in patients with stages III and IV (i.e., advanced oropharynx carcinoma). A total of 226 patients have been entered in a phase III multicenter, randomized trial comparing radiotherapy alone (arm A) with radiotherapy with concomitant chemotherapy (arm B). Radiotherapy was identical in the two arms, delivering, with conventional fractionation, 70 Gy in 35 fractions. In arm B, patients received during the period of radiotherapy three cycles of a 4-day regimen containing carboplatin (70 mg/m(2) per day) and 5-fluorouracil (600 mg/m(2) per day) by continuous infusion. The two arms were equally balanced with regard to age, sex, stage, performance status, histology, and primary tumor site. Radiotherapy compliance was similar in the two arms with respect to total dose, treatment duration, and treatment interruption. The rate of grades 3 and 4 mucositis was statistically significantly higher in arm B (71%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 54%-85%) than in arm A (39%; 95% CI = 29%-56%). Skin toxicity was not different between the two arms. Hematologic toxicity was higher in arm B as measured by neutrophil count and hemoglobin level. Three-year overall actuarial survival and disease-free survival rates were, respectively, 51% (95% CI = 39%-68%) versus 31% (95% CI = 18%-49%) and 42% (95% CI = 30%-57%) versus 20% (95% CI = 10%-33%) for patients treated with combined modality versus radiation therapy alone (P =.02 and.04, respectively). The locoregional control rate was improved in arm B (66%; 95% CI = 51%-78%) versus arm A (42%; 95% CI = 31%-56%). The statistically significant improvement in overall survival that was obtained supports the use of concomitant chemotherapy as an adjunct to radiotherapy in the management of carcinoma of the oropharynx.
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            Design issues of randomized phase II trials and a proposal for phase II screening trials.

            Future progress in improving cancer therapy can be expedited by better prioritization of new treatments for phase III evaluation. Historically, phase II trials have been key components in the prioritization process. There has been a long-standing interest in using phase II trials with randomization against a standard-treatment control arm or an additional experimental arm to provide greater assurance than afforded by comparison to historic controls that the new agent or regimen is promising and warrants further evaluation. Relevant trial designs that have been developed and utilized include phase II selection designs, randomized phase II designs that include a reference standard-treatment control arm, and phase II/III designs. We present our own explorations into the possibilities of developing "phase II screening trials," in which preliminary and nondefinitive randomized comparisons of experimental regimens to standard treatments are made (preferably using an intermediate end point) by carefully adjusting the false-positive error rates (alpha or type I error) and false-negative error rates (beta or type II error), so that the targeted treatment benefit may be appropriate while the sample size remains restricted. If the ability to conduct a definitive phase III trial can be protected, and if investigators feel that by judicious choice of false-positive probability and false-negative probability and magnitude of targeted treatment effect they can appropriately balance the conflicting demands of screening out useless regimens versus reliably detecting useful ones, the phase II screening trial design may be appropriate to apply.
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              Squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx: surgery, radiation therapy, or both.

              The treatment of patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the oropharynx remains controversial. No randomized trial has addressed adequately the question of whether surgery (S), radiation therapy (RT), or combined treatment is most effective. Treatment results from North American academic institutions that used S with or without adjuvant RT (S +/- RT) or used RT alone or followed by neck dissection (RT +/- ND) for patients with SCC of the tonsillar region or the base of tongue were compiled through a MEDLINE search (from 1970 to August, 2000) and from the references cited in each report. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they contained direct, actuarial (life-table), or Kaplan-Meier calculations for the following end points: local control, local-regional control, 5-year absolute survival, 5-year cause specific survival, or severe or fatal treatment complications. Weighted average results, which took into account series size, were calculated for each end point for the purposes of treatment comparison. Results and conclusions were based on data from 51 reported series, representing the treatment of approximately 6400 patients from the United States and Canada. The results for patients with SCC of the base of tongue who underwent S +/- RT versus RT +/- ND, respectively, were as follows: local control, 79% versus 76% (P = 0.087); local-regional control, 60% versus 69% (P = 0.009); 5-year survival, 49% versus 52% (P = 0.2); 5-year cause specific survival, 62% versus 63% (P = 0.4); severe complications, 32% versus 3.8% (P < 0.001); and fatal complications, 3.5% versus 0.4% (P < 0.001). The results for patients with SCC in the tonsillar region who underwent S +/- RT versus RT +/- ND, respectively, were as follows: local control, 70% versus 68% (P = 0.2); local-regional control, 65% versus 69% (P = 0.1); 5-year survival, 47% versus 43% (P = 0.2); 5-year cause specific survival, 57% versus 59% (P = 0.3); severe complications, 23% versus 6% (P < 0.001); and fatal complications, 3.2% versus 0.8% (P < 0.001). The information in this article provides a useful benchmark for evidence-based counseling of patients with SCC of the oropharynx. The rates of local control, local-regional control, 5-year survival, and 5-year cause specific survival were similar for patients who underwent S +/- RT or RT +/- ND, whereas the rates of severe or fatal complications were significantly greater for the S +/- RT group. Furthermore, available data on the functional consequences of treatment suggest the superiority of RT +/- ND. The authors conclude that RT +/- ND is preferable for the majority of patients with SCC of the oropharynx. Copyright 2002 American Cancer Society.

                Author and article information

                BMC Cancer
                BMC Cancer
                BMC Cancer
                BioMed Central
                20 March 2013
                : 13
                : 133
                [1 ]Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, London Health Sciences Centre and Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                [2 ]Division of Radiation Oncology, Department of Oncology, London Health Sciences Centre and Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                [3 ]Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology, London Health Sciences Centre and Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                [4 ]Department of Medical Biophysics, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                [5 ]Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                [6 ]Division of Radiation Oncology, Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
                [7 ]School of Communications Sciences and Disorders, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                [8 ]Department of Pathology, London Health Sciences Centre, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
                Copyright ©2013 Nichols et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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