Feasibility and early results of accelerated radiotherapy for head and neck carcinoma in the elderly

Cancer. 2000 Feb 1;88(3):648-52.


Background: Accelerated radiotherapy (RT) represents a promising method with which to improve the treatment outcome in patients with head and neck carcinoma. However, its applicability to elderly patients has not been well established. This study assessed treatment toxicities, patient compliance, and oncologic results in patients age >/= 70 years who were treated with an accelerated concomitant boost RT schedule.

Methods: Between 1991 and 1997, 39 patients aged >/= 70 years (mean, 75 +/- 6 years) presenting with carcinomas of the oral cavity, pharynx, or larynx were treated radically with a modified concomitant boost RT schedule (planned dose of 69.9 grays [Gy] over 38 days). Based on American Joint Committee on Cancer staging, there were 14 patients with Stage I-II disease and 25 patients with Stage III-IV disease. Eighty-one patients age < 70 years who were treated with the same RT schedule served as a comparative group. The median follow-up for the surviving patients was 19 months (range, 3-65 months) and 23 months (range, 2-76 months), respectively, for the elderly and younger patient groups.

Results: The planned RT schedule was completed in all cases. Three patients (8%) in the elderly group and none in the younger group had an unplanned treatment interruption because of acute toxicity or lack of compliance (P = 0.03). The median tumor dose (69.9 Gy; range, 67-73 Gy) and the median overall treatment time (41 days; range, 36-60 days) were identical in both groups. According to the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group grading system, Grade 3-4 acute reactions were observed in 66% of elderly patients and in 71% of younger patients. Ten elderly patients (26%) and 19 younger patients (23%) required a nasogastric tube or a percutaneous gastrostomy for feeding, with a median weight loss of 4.1 kg and 4.4 kg, respectively, in the 2 groups. Grade 3-4 late complications were observed in 3% of the elderly patients and 10% of the younger patients (P = 0.43). Both elderly and younger patients had similar results with regard to 3-year actuarial overall survival (68% vs. 62%; P = 0.48) and locoregional control (73% vs. 68%; P = 0.31).

Conclusions: The current study suggests that an accelerated concomitant boost RT schedule is feasible in elderly patients who are physically healthy enough to undergo curative treatment. The acute and late toxicities appear to be similar to those observed in younger patients, and treatment outcomes appear to be comparable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Actuarial Analysis
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / radiotherapy*
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrostomy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / instrumentation
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Remission Induction
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss