Long-term cosmetic outcomes and toxicities of proton beam therapy compared with photon-based 3-dimensional conformal accelerated partial-breast irradiation: a phase 1 trial

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2014 Nov 1;90(3):493-500. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2014.04.008. Epub 2014 May 29.


Purpose: To present long-term outcomes of a prospective feasibility trial using either protons or 3-dimensional conformal photon-based (accelerated partial-breast irradiation [APBI]) techniques.

Methods and materials: From October 2003 to April 2006, 98 evaluable patients with stage I breast cancer were treated with APBI (32 Gy in 8 fractions given twice daily) on a prospective clinical trial: 19 with proton beam therapy (PBT) and 79 with photons or mixed photons/electrons. Median follow-up was 82.5 months (range, 2-104 months). Toxicity and patient satisfaction evaluations were performed at each visit.

Results: At 7 years, the physician rating of overall cosmesis was good or excellent for 62% of PBT patients, compared with 94% for photon patients (P=.03). Skin toxicities were more common for the PBT group: telangiectasia, 69% and 16% (P=.0013); pigmentation changes, 54% and 22% (P=.02); and other late skin toxicities, 62% and 18% (P=.029) for PBT and photons, respectively. There were no significant differences between the groups in the incidences of breast pain, edema, fibrosis, fat necrosis, skin desquamation, and rib pain or fracture. Patient-reported cosmetic outcomes at 7 years were good or excellent for 92% and 96% of PBT and photon patients, respectively (P=.95). Overall patient satisfaction was 93% for the entire cohort. The 7-year local failure rate for all patients was 6%, with 3 local recurrences in the PBT group (7-year rate, 11%) and 2 in photon-treated patients (4%) (P=.22).

Conclusions: Local failure rates of 3-dimensional APBI and PBT were similar in this study. However, PBT, as delivered in this study, led to higher rates of long-term telangiectasia, skin color changes, and skin toxicities. We recommend the use of multiple fields and treatment of all fields per treatment session or the use of scanning techniques to minimize skin toxicity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Fat Necrosis / etiology
  • Fat Necrosis / pathology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Photons / adverse effects
  • Photons / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Radiodermatitis / pathology
  • Radiodermatitis / prevention & control
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal / methods*
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Telangiectasis / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Burden