Splenic irradiation for splenomegaly: A systematic review

Cancer Treat Rev. 2017 Feb:53:47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2016.11.016. Epub 2016 Dec 22.


Splenic irradiation (SI) is a palliative treatment option for symptomatic splenomegaly (i.e. for pain, early satiety, pancytopenia from sequestration) secondary to hematologic malignancies and disorders. The purpose of the current article is to review the literature on SI for hematologic malignancies and disorders, including: (1) patient selection and optimal technique; (2) efficacy of SI; and (3) toxicities of SI. PICOS/PRISMA methods are used to select 27 articles including 766 courses of SI for 486 patients from 1960 to 2016. The most common cancers treated included chronic lymphocytic leukemia and myeloproliferative disorders; the most common regimen was 10Gy in 1Gy fractions over two weeks, and 27% of patients received retreatment. A partial or complete response (for symptoms, lab abnormalities) was obtained in 85-90% of treated patients, and 30% were retreated within 6-12months. There was no correlation between biologically equivalent dose of radiation therapy and response duration, pain relief, spleen reduction, or cytopenia improvement (r2 all <0.4); therefore, lower doses (e.g. 5Gy in 5 fractions) may be as effective as higher doses. Grade 3-4 toxicity (typically leukopenia, infection) was noted in 22% of courses, with grade 5 toxicity in 0.7% of courses. All grade 5 toxicities were due to either thrombocytopenia with hemorrhage or leukopenia with sepsis (or a combination of both); they were sequelae of cancer and not directly caused by SI. In summary, SI is generally a safe and efficacious method for treating patients with symptomatic splenomegaly.

Keywords: Cancer; Leukemia; Lymphoma; Meta-analysis; Myelofibrosis; Palliation; Radiation oncology; Radiotherapy; Splenomegaly; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / complications*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Spleen / radiation effects
  • Splenomegaly / radiotherapy*
  • Treatment Outcome