Background and purpose: The potential risk of prolongation of treatment time in cervical cancer has been reported for many low-dose rate (LDR) studies, with an estimated loss of local control ranging from 0.3 to 1.6% per day of treatment prolongation. Since the treatment schedule for fractionated high-dose rate intracavitary brachytherapy (HDRICB) is not directly comparable with that for low-dose rate studies, this report aims to evaluate the adverse effect of treatment prolongation specifically for cervical cancer treated with HDRICB.
Material and methods: From September 1992 to December 1997, 257 patients diagnosed with uterine cervical cancer (35 Ib, 26 IIa, 122 IIb, 10 IIIa, 57 IIIb, 7 IVa), who underwent external radiotherapy combined with between two and four courses of HDRICB and a minimum of 3 years of follow-up (median 57 months), were analyzed. Treatment consisted of irradiation of the whole pelvis with 44-45 Gy consisting of 22-25 fractions by 5 weeks, with the dose boosted to 54-58 Gy (with central shielding) for patients diagnosed as FIGO stage IIb-IVa bilateral parametrial disease. HDRICB was performed using an Ir-192 remote afterloading technique at 1-week intervals. The standard prescribed dose for each course of HDRICB was 7.2 Gy to point A for three insertions (before July 1995), or 6.0 Gy to point A for four insertions (after July 1995). Total prescribed point A doses (external beam radiotherapy+HDRICB) ranged from 58 to 71.6 Gy (median, 65.6 Gy) for stage IB-IIA, while analogous dosage for larger lesions (stage IIb-IVa) ranged from 59 to 75.6 Gy (median, 65.6 Gy). Kaplan-Meier and multivariate analyses were used to test the effect of treatment time on pelvic control rate (PCR) and cause-specific survival (CSS) at 5 years.
Results: Median treatment time was 63 days. For all stages of disease, the 5-year CSS and PCR were significantly different comparing treatment times of less than and greater than or equal to 63 days [83% and 65% (P=0.004], 93% and 83% (P=0.02), respectively]. These associations were also significant for stage Ib/IIa [97% and 79% (P=0.01), and 100% and 87% (P=0.02), respectively), but not for stage IIb [75% and 72% (P=0.79), and 93% and 87% (P=0.83), respectively] or stage III [66% and 49% (P=0.2), and 83% and 72% (P=0.21), respectively]. Multivariate analysis identified three prognostic factors for CSS, stage (P<0.001), tumor response to external RT (P=0.001), and overall treatment time (OTT; P=0.006). Prognostic factors for pelvic failure were stage (P<0.001), tumor response to external RT (P=0.001), and OTT (P=0.03). Prolongation of treatment time resulted in a daily decrease in pelvic control rate of 0.67% overall, and 0.43% for stage Ib-IIa, 0.57% for stage IIb, and 0.73% for stage III patients.
Conclusion: Analysis of the data from the current study demonstrates that the adverse effect of treatment prolongation was observed later in the treatment course for the high-dose rate (HDR) series compared to the LDR analog, however, treatment-time prolongation still negatively influenced the cause-specific survival and pelvic control rate for both dosage groups.