Purpose: Accelerated schedules are effective in overcoming repopulation during radiotherapy (RT) for head-and-neck cancers, but their feasibility is compromised by increased toxicity. The therapeutic ratio may be particularly favorable for 5-week regimens. This study reports the 10-year experience of a single institution in the routine use of concomitant boost RT as standard radical treatment in all but the most favorable stage patients.
Methods and materials: Between February 1991 and June 2001, 296 patients (mean age, 59 years) were treated with concomitant boost RT either alone (67%) or combined with cisplatin-based chemotherapy (33%), with a median tumor dose of 69.9 Gy. Tumors were located in the oropharynx in 52%, hypopharynx in 20%, larynx in 15%, nasopharynx in 7%, and oral cavity in 6%. International Union Against Cancer Stage III-IV disease represented 77% of tumors. The median follow-up for surviving patients was 55 months (range, 10-138 months).
Results: The RT schedule was completed to the prescribed dose in all but 1 patient. Twenty patients (7%) had a treatment interruption (median, 5 days; range, 2-35 days). Grade 3-4 Radiation Therapy Oncology Group acute toxicity was observed in 77% of patients, and nutritional support was required in 110 patients (37%). For all patients, the 5-year actuarial locoregional control and disease-free survival rate was 72% and 61%, respectively. In a multivariate analysis, only T and N stage was significantly associated with locoregional control and disease-free survival. Grade 3-4 late toxicity occurred in 14%, mostly bone and cartilage necrosis.
Conclusions: The present, moderately accelerated, concomitant boost regimen is logistically feasible, causing minimal inconvenience to the technical staff and yielding a high rate of patient compliance. Concomitant chemotherapy administration is feasible provided that patients are carefully selected and supportive care is introduced in a timely fashion. Considering the manageable toxicity and the satisfactory tumor control obtained, this regimen represents a good choice when considering implementation of an altered RT fractionation schedule as standard treatment for head-and-neck cancers.