Radiation Therapy and Cisplatin With or Without Surgery in Treating Patients With Stage III-IV Oropharyngeal Cancer


  • Study type

  • Study phase

  • Study IDs

  • Describes the nature of a clinical study. Types include:

    • Observational study — observes people and measures outcomes without affecting results.
    • Interventional study (clinical trial) — studies new tests, treatments, drugs, surgical procedures or devices.
    • Medical records research — uses historical information collected from medical records of large groups of people to study how diseases progress and which treatments and surgeries work best.
  • During the early phases (phases 1 and 2), researchers assess safety, side effects, optimal dosages and risks/benefits. In the later phase (phase 3), researchers study whether the treatment works better than the current standard therapy. They also compare the safety of the new treatment with that of current treatments. Phase 3 trials include large numbers of people to make sure that the result is valid. There are also less common very early (phase 0) and later (phase 4) phases. Phase 0 trials are small trials that help researchers decide if a new agent should be tested in a phase 1 trial. Phase 4 trials look at long-term safety and effectiveness, after a new treatment has been approved and is on the market.

  • Site IRB
    • Rochester, Minnesota: 13-008508
    NCT ID: NCT01953952
    Sponsor Protocol Number: RTOG 1221

About this study

This randomized phase II trial studies radiation therapy and cisplatin with or without surgery in treating patients with stage III-IV oropharyngeal cancer. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill tumor cells. Drugs used in chemotherapy, such as cisplatin, work in different ways to stop the growth of tumor cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Giving chemotherapy with radiation therapy may kill more tumor cells. It is not yet known whether radiation therapy and cisplatin are more effective with or without surgery in treating patients with oropharyngeal cancer.

Participation eligibility

Participant eligibility includes age, gender, type and stage of disease, and previous treatments or health concerns. Guidelines differ from study to study, and identify who can or cannot participate. If you need assistance understanding the eligibility criteria, please contact the study team.

See eligibility criteria

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Pathologically (histologically or cytologically) proven diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, localized to the tonsil, glossopharyngeal sulcus, and tongue-base within 6 weeks (42 days) of registration
  • The primary tumor must be resectable through a transoral endoscopic head and neck surgery with anticipation of resection free margins (resection does not require total or subtotal glossectomy or total laryngectomy); specifically, patients must (1) not have trismus, (2) not have interincisor opening less than 2.5 cm, and (3) not have poor transoral exposure of the tumor itself nor surrounding soft-tissue margins, regardless of etiology
  • Clinical stage III-IV; T1-2, N1-2b; T3, N0-2b, with only well-lateralized exophytic T3 tumors not approaching within 1 cm of midline, and amenable to transoral eHNS
  • p16 protein (p16) negative by immunohistochemistry (documented by the institution's pre-enrollment biomarker screening at a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments [CLIA]-certified lab), defined as absent, weak, and only focal nuclear and cytoplasmic staining in less than 70% of the tumor cells
  • Appropriate stage for protocol entry, including no distant metastases or adenopathy below the clavicles, based upon the following minimum diagnostic workup:
    • History/physical examination by the treating physician (radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, or head and neck surgeon) within 30 days prior to registration
    • Imaging of the head and neck (CT with contrast, positron emission tomography [PET]/CT, and/or magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) within 30 days prior to registration; a CT scan with contrast is mandatory (unless contraindicated, e.g. contrast allergy, etc.); note that a PET/CT scan alone (unless performed with contrast) is not sufficient
    • Chest CT scan (with or without contrast) or PET/CT of chest (with or without contrast) within 30 days prior to registration
    • Modified barium swallow (MBS) to assess swallowing function within 30 days prior to registration
    • Preoperative Mallampati assessment as documented by attending surgeon within 30 days prior to registration
  • Zubrod performance status 0-1 within 30 days prior to registration
  • Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) ≥ 1,800 cells/mm^3 based upon complete blood count (CBC)/differential
  • Platelets ≥ 100,000 cells/mm^3 based upon CBC/differential
  • Hemoglobin ≥ 8.0 g/dl based upon CBC/differential (Note: The use of transfusion or other intervention to achieve hemoglobin [Hgb] ≥ 8.0 g/dl is acceptable)
  • Total bilirubin ≤ 2 mg/dl
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) or alanine aminotransferase (ALT) < 3 x the upper limit of normal
  • Serum creatinine ≤ 1.5 mg/dl and/or creatinine clearance (CC) ≥ 50 ml/min; CC can be determined by 24-hour collection or estimated by Cockcroft-Gault formula
  • Serum pregnancy test within 14 days prior to registration for women of childbearing potential
  • Women of childbearing potential and male participants who are sexually active must practice medically effective contraception during treatment and for 42 days following completion of treatment
  • Patient must be able to provide study-specific informed consent prior to study entry

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Prior invasive malignancy (except non-melanomatous skin cancer) unless disease free for a minimum of 1095 days (3 years) (for example, carcinoma in situ of the breast or cervix are all permissible)
  • Prior systemic chemotherapy for the study cancer; note that prior chemotherapy for a different cancer is allowable
  • Prior radiotherapy to the region of the study cancer that would result in overlap of radiation therapy fields
  • Severe, active co-morbidity, defined as follows:
    • > 2 based on the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status classification system
    • Unstable angina and/or congestive heart failure requiring hospitalization within the last 6 months
    • Transmural myocardial infarction within the last 6 months
    • Acute bacterial or fungal infection requiring intravenous antibiotics at the time of registration
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation or other respiratory illness requiring hospitalization or precluding study therapy within 30 days before registration
    • Hepatic insufficiency resulting in clinical jaundice and/or coagulation defects
    • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) based upon current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) definition; note, however, that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing is not required for entry into this protocol; the need to exclude patients with AIDS from this protocol is necessary because the treatments involved in this protocol may be significantly immunosuppressive; protocol-specific requirements may also exclude immuno-compromised patients
  • Pregnancy or women of childbearing potential and men who are sexually active and not willing/able to use medically acceptable forms of contraception; this exclusion is necessary because the treatment involved in this study may be significantly teratogenic
  • Prior allergic reaction to cisplatin
  • Radiographic evidence of retropharyngeal metastasis

Participating Mayo Clinic locations

Study statuses change often. Please contact us for help.

Mayo Clinic Location Status Contact

Rochester, Minn.

Mayo Clinic principal investigator

Katharine Price, M.D.

Closed for enrollment

Contact information:

Cancer Center Clinical Trials Referral Office



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