BACKGROUND: To investigate clinicopathologic predictive criteria for the optimal management of neck metastases in patients with advanced head and neck cancers treated with combined chemoradiotherapy. METHODS: Prospective study, 48 patients. Mean length follow-up, 23 months. RESULTS: Neck stage predicted neck response to chemoradiotherapy; N3 necks showed more partial responses (P = 0.04), and N1 necks showed more complete responses (P = 0.12). Primary tumor site strongly predicted the pathologic response found on neck dissection in patients with a clinical partial response (cPR) following chemoradiotherapy. There was no difference in survival between patients with a clinical complete response (cCR) after chemoradiotherapy, and patients with a pathologic complete response (pCR) after neck dissection (P = 0.20); however, when grouped together, these patients survived longer than did patients with a pPR at neck dissection (P = 0.06). CONCLUSIONS: Clinical response to induction chemotherapy is a poor predictor of ultimate neck control. Induction chemotherapy followed by chemoradiotherapy, and planned neck dissection for patients with persistent cervical lymphadenopathy, provides good regional control.
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