BACKGROUNDE2303 evaluated cetuximab, paclitaxel, and carboplatin used as induction therapy and concomitant with radiation therapy in patients with stage III/IV head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) determining pathologic complete response (CR), event-free survival (EFS), and toxicity.PATIENTS AND METHODSPatients with resectable stage III/IV HNSCC underwent induction therapy with planned primary site restaging biopsies (at week 8 in clinical complete responders and at week 14 if disease persisted). Chemoradiation (CRT) began week 9. If week 14 biopsy was negative, patients completed CRT (68-72 Gy); otherwise, resection was carried out. p16 protein expression status was correlated with response/survival.RESULTSSeventy-four patients were enrolled; 63 were eligible. Forty-four (70%) were free of surgery to the primary site, progression, and death 1-year post-treatment. Following induction, 41 (23 CR) underwent week 8 primary site biopsy and 24 (59%) had no tumor (pathologic CR). Week 14 biopsy during chemoradiation (50 Gy) in 34 (15 previously positive biopsy; 19 no prior biopsy) was negative in 33. Thus 90% of eligible patients completed CRT. Overall survival and EFS were 78% and 55% at 3 years, respectively. Disease progression in 23 patients (37%) was local only in 10 (16%), regional in 5 (8%), local and regional in 2 (3%), and distant in 5 patients (8%). There were no treatment-related deaths. Toxicity was primarily hematologic or radiation-related. p16 AQUA score was not associated with response/survival.CONCLUSIONSInduction cetuximab, paclitaxel, and carboplatin followed by the same drug CRT is safe and induces high primary site response and promising survival.CLINICAL TRIALS NUMBERNCT 00089297.