Purpose: To investigate the safety and efficacy of proton beam therapy for aged patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods and materials: Twenty-one patients aged > or =80 years with HCC underwent proton beam therapy. At the time of irradiation, patient age ranged from 80 to 85 years (median, 81 years). Hepatic tumors were solitary in 17 patients and multiple in 4. Tumor size ranged from 10 to 135 mm (median, 40 mm) in maximum diameter. Ten, 5, and 6 patients received proton beam irradiation with total doses of 60 Gy in 10 fractions, 66 Gy in 22 fractions, and 70 Gy in 35 fractions, respectively, according to tumor location.
Results: All irradiated tumors were controlled during the follow-up period of 6-49 months (median, 16 months). Five patients showed new hepatic tumors outside the irradiated volume, 2-13 months after treatment, and 1 of them also had lung metastasis. The local progression-free and disease-free rates were 100% and 72% at 3 years, respectively. Of 21 patients, 7 died 6-49 months after treatment; 2 patients each died of trauma and old age, and 1 patient each died of HCC, pneumonia, and arrhythmia. The 3-year overall, cause-specific, and disease-free survival rates were 62%, 88%, and 51%, respectively. No therapy-related toxicity of Grade > or = 3 but thrombocytopenia in 2 patients was observed.
Conclusions: Proton beam therapy seems to be tolerable, effective, and safe for aged patients with HCC. It may contribute to prolonged survival due to tumor control.