[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
Views 653
Citations 0
Original Investigation
June 11, 2020

Association of Sarcopenia With Oncologic Outcomes of Primary Surgery or Definitive Radiotherapy Among Patients With Localized Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 2Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 3Department of Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 4Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 5Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • 6Operative Care Division, Portland Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Portland, Oregon
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online June 11, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.1154
Key Points

Question  Is the selection of primary treatment modality associated with survival among patients with sarcopenia and localized oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma?

Findings  In this cohort study, a matched analysis of patients with sarcopenia and localized oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma demonstrated an association between patients treated by primary surgical resection and improved overall and disease-specific survival compared with patients treated by definitive radiotherapy.

Meaning  Up-front surgical resection may be associated with improved survival for sarcopenic patients with localized oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.


Importance  The negative association of low lean muscle mass (sarcopenia) with survival outcomes in head and neck cancers, including oropharyngeal carcinoma, is established. However, it is not known whether the choice of primary treatment modality (surgery or radiotherapy) is associated with oncologic outcomes of patients with sarcopenia and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC).

Objective  To examine whether primary surgical resection or definitive radiotherapy is associated with improved survival for patients with sarcopenia and localized OPSCC.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A cohort study was conducted of patients with clinically staged T1 to T2, N0 to N2 OPSCC with cross-sectional abdominal imaging within 60 days prior to treatment and treated between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2017. Skeletal muscle mass was measured at the third lumbar vertebra using previously defined techniques and sarcopenia was defined as less than 52.4 cm2/m2 of muscle for men and less than 38.5 cm2/m2 for women. In addition, associated patient demographic characteristics, cancer data, treatment information, and survival outcomes were assessed. Statistical analysis was performed from December 3, 2018, to August 28, 2019.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Primary outcomes were overall survival and disease-specific survival.

Results  Among the 245 patients who met study inclusion criteria, 209 were men (85.3%) and the mean (SD) age was 62.3 (7.8) years. Sarcopenia was detected in 135 patients (55.1%), while normal skeletal muscle mass was detected in 110 patients (44.9%). For the 110 patients without sarcopenia, primary treatment modality was not associated with improved survival. For patients with sarcopenia at diagnosis, primary surgical resection was associated with improved overall survival (hazard ratio [HR], 0.37; 95% CI, 0.17-0.82) and disease-specific survival (HR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.07-0.68). This association persisted after propensity score matching, as up-front surgery was associated with improved overall survival (HR, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.12-0.91) and disease-specific survival (HR, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.04-0.75) survival.

Conclusions and Relevance  This study suggests that sarcopenia has a negative association with survival for patients with OPSCC. Primary surgery and radiotherapy confer similar survival associations for patients with normal skeletal muscle mass and localized OPSCC. However, up-front surgical resection may be associated with improved survival outcomes for patients with sarcopenia.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words