Recent studies have suggested the benefit of salvage chemotherapy (SCT) after immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatment for recurrent and metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (R/M HNSCC). We retrospectively examined the outcome of SCT and the usefulness of the serum C-reactive protein level (CRP) and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) as prognostic biomarkers. Thirty-nine patients with R/M HNSCC were enrolled in this study. Twenty-five patients (64.1%) received combination chemotherapy of weekly paclitaxel and cetuximab (PC) as SCT, and 14 patients (35.9%) received S1, an oral fluoropyrimidine. In all patients, the response rate, disease control rate, median progression-free survival (PFS), and median overall survival (OS) were 45.2%, 85.7%, 6.5 months, and 13.5 months, respectively. No chemotherapy-related deaths were observed. These PC groups had low CRP (<1.2 mg/dL) or low NLR (<7.0) values at the time of SCT induction, which was significantly associated with an improved OS (p = 0.0440, p = 0.0354). A multivariate analysis also showed that a lower CRP value was significantly associated with a better OS (p = 0.0078). We clarified the usefulness of the PC and S1 regimens as SCT. In addition, SCT with the PC regimen showed a better prognosis with a lower CRP or NLR at induction than a higher CRP or NLR This is the first report on biomarkers of SCT in R/M HNSCC.
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