Rationale and early outcomes for the management of thymoma with proton therapy

Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2018 Apr;7(2):106-113. doi: 10.21037/tlcr.2018.04.06.


Background: Radiotherapy for thymic malignancies is technically challenging due to their close proximity to the heart, lungs, esophagus, and breasts, raising concerns about significant acute and late toxicities from conventional photon radiotherapy. Proton therapy (PT) may reduce the radiation dose to these vital organs, leading to less toxicity. We reviewed the dosimetry and outcomes among patients treated with PT for thymic malignancies at our institution.

Methods: From January 2008 to March 2017, six patients with de novo Masaoka stages II-III thymic malignancies were treated with PT on an IRB-approved outcomes tracking protocol. Patients were evaluated weekly during treatment, then every 3 months for 2 years, then every 6 months for 3 more years, and then annually for CTCAE vs. four toxicities and disease recurrence. Comparison intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) plans were developed for each patient. Mean doses to the heart, esophagus, bilateral breasts, lungs, and V20 of bilateral lungs were evaluated for the two treatment plans.

Results: At last follow-up (median follow-up, 2.6 years), there were two patients with recurrences, including metastatic disease in the patient treated definitively with chemotherapy and PT without surgery and a local-regional recurrence in the lung outside the proton field in one of the post-operative cases. No patients with de novo disease experienced grade ≥3 toxicities after PT. The mean dose to the heart, lung, and esophagus was reduced on average by 36.5%, 33.5%, and 60%, respectively, using PT compared with IMRT (P<0.05 for each dose parameter).

Conclusions: PT achieved superior dose sparing to the heart, lung, and esophagus compared to IMRT for thymic malignancies. Patients treated with PT had few radiation-induced toxicities and similar survival compared to historic proton data.

Keywords: Thymoma; outcomes; particle therapy; radiation therapy; radiotherapy.