Intensity-modulated radiotherapy in the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma: an update of the UCSF experience

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002 May 1;53(1):12-22. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(02)02724-4.


Purpose: To update our experience with intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) in the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).

Methods and materials: Between April 1995 and October 2000, 67 patients underwent IMRT for NPC at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF). There were 20 females and 47 males, with a mean age of 49 (range 17-82). The disease was Stage I in 8 (12%), Stage II in 12 (18%), Stage III in 22 (33%), and Stage IV in 25 (37%). IMRT was delivered using three different techniques: 1) manually cut partial transmission blocks, 2) computer-controlled auto-sequencing segmental multileaf collimator (SMLC), and 3) sequential tomotherapy using a dynamic multivane intensity modulating collimator (MIMiC). Fifty patients received concomitant cisplatinum and adjuvant cisplatinum and 5-FU chemotherapy according to the Intergroup 0099 trial. Twenty-six patients had fractionated high-dose-rate intracavitary brachytherapy boost and 1 patient had gamma knife radiosurgery boost after external beam radiotherapy. The prescribed dose was 65-70 Gy to the gross tumor volume (GTV) and positive neck nodes, 60 Gy to the clinical target volume (CTV), 50-60 Gy to the clinically negative neck, and 5-7 Gy in 2 fractions for the intracavitary brachytherapy boost. Acute and late normal tissue effects were graded according to the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) radiation morbidity scoring criteria. The local progression-free, local-regional progression-free, distant metastasis-free rates, and the overall survival were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: With a median follow-up of 31 months (range 7 to 72 months), there has been one local recurrence at the primary site. One patient failed in the neck. Seventeen patients developed distant metastases; 5 of these patients have died. The 4-year estimates of local progression-free, local-regional progression-free, and distant metastases-free rates were 97%, 98%, and 66% respectively. The 4-year estimate of overall survival was 88%. The worst acute toxicity documented was as follows: Grade 1 or 2 in 51 patients, Grade 3 in 15 patients, and Grade 4 in 1 patient. The worst late toxicity was Grade 1 in 20 patients, Grade 2 in 15 patients, Grade 3 in 7 patients, and Grade 4 in 1 patient. At 3 months after IMRT, 64% of the patients had Grade 2, 28% had Grade 1, and 8% had Grade 0 xerostomia. Xerostomia decreased with time. At 24 months, only one of the 41 evaluable patients had Grade 2, 32% had Grade 1, and 66% had Grade 0 or no xerostomia. Analysis of the dose-volume histograms (DVHs) showed that the average maximum, mean, and minimum dose delivered were 79.3 Gy, 74.5 Gy, and 49.4 Gy to the GTV, and 78.9 Gy, 68.7 Gy, and 36.8 Gy to the CTV. An average of only 3% of the GTV and 3% of the CTV received less than 95% of the prescribed dose.

Conclusion: Excellent local-regional control for NPC was achieved with IMRT. IMRT provided excellent tumor target coverage and allowed the delivery of a high dose to the target with significant sparing of the salivary glands and other nearby critical normal tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Treatment Outcome