Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy Versus Intensity Modulated Photon Radiation Therapy for Oropharyngeal Cancer: First Comparative Results of Patient-Reported Outcomes

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2016 Jul 15;95(4):1107-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2016.02.044. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Purpose: We hypothesized that patients with oropharyngeal cancer treated with intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) would have lower symptom burdens, as measured by patient-reported outcome (PRO) surveys, than patients treated with intensity modulated photon therapy (IMRT).

Methods and materials: Patients were treated for oropharyngeal cancer from 2006 to 2015 through prospective registries with concurrent chemotherapy and IMPT or chemotherapy and IMRT and completed the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory for Head and Neck Cancer (MDASI-HN) module at various times before treatment (baseline), during treatment (acute phase), within the first 3 months after treatment (subacute phase), and afterward (chronic phase). Individual symptoms and the top 5 and top 11 most severe symptoms were summarized and compared between the radiation therapy modalities.

Results: PRO data were collected and analyzed from 35 patients treated with chemotherapy and IMPT and from 46 treated with chemotherapy and IMRT. The baseline symptom burdens were similar between both groups. The overall top 5 symptoms were food taste problems (mean score 4.91 on a 0-10 scale), dry mouth (4.49), swallowing/chewing difficulties (4.26), lack of appetite (4.08), and fatigue (4.00). Among the top 11 symptoms, changes in taste and appetite during the subacute and chronic phases favored IMPT (all P<.048). No differences in symptom burden were detected between modalities during the acute and chronic phases by top-11 symptom scoring. During the subacute phase, the mean (±standard deviation) top 5 MDASI scores were 5.15 ± 2.66 for IMPT versus 6.58 ± 1.98 for IMRT (P=.013).

Conclusions: According to the MDASI-HN, symptom burden was lower among the IMPT patients than among the IMRT patients during the subacute recovery phase after treatment. A prospective randomized clinical trial is underway to define the value of IMPT for the management of head and neck tumors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Photons / therapeutic use*
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / methods*