This study examines the role of combination chemotherapy with surgery and/or radiotherapy in the initial treatment of patients with advanced stage III and IV squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Two courses of initial (induction) cisplatin, bleomycin, and methotrexate with oral calcium leucovorin (PBM) were used with the principal intent of increasing the effectiveness of subsequent surgery and/or radiotherapy. Following induction chemotherapy and local treatment, disease-free patients who had responded to initial chemotherapy were entered into a randomized trial of adjuvant PBM. The response rates to induction PBM chemotherapy were a complete response (CR) rate of 26% and a partial response (PR) rate of 52%, for an overall response rate of 78%. A response to induction PBM was highly correlated with failure-free survival (P < .0001).A Cox multistep regression analysis of potential prognostic factors was performed. After adjusting for the significant prognostic factors of performance status, initial tumor size, and primary tumor site, a response to induction chemotherapy remained independently associated with improved survival (P = .0002). The randomized trial of adjuvant chemotherapy demonstrated that such treatment significantly improved failure-free survival by decreasing local-regional failures. The benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy was particularly evident in patients who had a PR to induction chemotherapy (P = .01).The toxicity of this multidisciplinary approach was predictable and acceptable. Surgery and radiotherapy were not compromised by induction or adjuvant chemotherapy. Definitive evidence that chemotherapy can favorably influence survival awaits confirmation of these results by a randomized trial using a control arm of patients treated with conventional surgery and/or radiotherapy alone.