Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck in solid organ transplant recipients

Diego A. Preciado, Arthur Matas, George L. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background. The increased incidence of cancer after solid organ transplantation is well established in the literature, yet outcome studies in this population are rare. Excluding skin cancers, squamous cell carcinomas make up most head and neck cancers in transplant recipients. Methods. At our institution, of 5300 solid organ transplant recipients, 34 have had head and neck cancer develop. We reviewed the records of the 23 recipients whose cancer was treated here. Results. Only 6 of the 23 recipients were alive at the time of our chart review. Of these, three had already survived 5 years. The 10 recipients diagnosed early (stage I or II) had significantly longer survival after cancer diagnosis than the 13 diagnosed at an advanced stage (stage III or IV) (96.0 mo vs 9.0 mo, p < .001). In all, 14 (60.8%) of the 23 recipients died of cancer within 2 years after diagnosis, 12 (50.2%) within 12 months. The sum of the daily doses of immunosuppressive drugs at cancer diagnosis was significantly greater for recipients who died within 2 years (p = .02). Furthermore, the difference in average doses of both prednisone (p = .001) and azathioprine (p = .028) was also significantly greater for those who died within 2 years. The average dose of cyclosporine was also greater, but this difference did not reach statistical significance (p = .18). The average dose of prednisone was significantly lower for recipients diagnosed early (p = .001). This correlation between high immunosuppressive drug doses and worse outcome has not been shown previously. Conclusions. Solid organ transplant recipients who are diagnosed with advanced head and neck cancer while receiving high doses of immunosuppressive drugs fare extremely poorly. High doses of immunosuppressive drugs, most notably prednisone, correlate significantly with advanced diagnosis of head and neck cancer and earlier death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-325
Number of pages7
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 9 2002


  • Head and neck cancer
  • Immunosuppression
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Transplantation outcomes


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