Dose painting for re-irradiation of head and neck cancer

Acta Oncol. 2018 Dec;57(12):1693-1699. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2018.1512753. Epub 2018 Oct 3.


Background: For patients with recurrent or second primary disease, re-irradiation can be challenging due to overlap with previously irradiated volumes. Dose painting may be attractive for these patients, as the focus is on delivering maximal dose to areas of high tumor activity. Here, we compare dose painting by contours (DPBC) treatment plans based on 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) with conventional plans.

Material and methods: We included 10 patients with recurrent or second primary head and neck cancer (HNC) eligible for re-irradiation. Our conventional re-irradiation regimen is hyperfractionated radiotherapy 1.5 Gy twice daily over 4 weeks, giving a total dose of 60 Gy. For DPBC, we defined two prescription volumes, PV33 and PV66, corresponding to 33 and 66% of the highest FDG uptake in the tumor. The clinical target volume (CTV) prescription dose was 60 Gy, PV33; 65-67 Gy and PV66; 70-73 Gy. The DPBC plan is to be given the first 20 fractions and the conventional plan the last 20 fractions. Dose to organs at risk (OARs) were compared for DPBC and conventional treatment. By summation of the initial curative plan and the re-irradiation plan, we also evaluated differences in dose to the 2 ccm hot spot (D2cc).

Results: We achieved DPBC plans with adequate target coverage for all 10 patients. There were no significant differences in OAR doses between the standard plans and the DPBC plans (p=.7). Summation of the initial curative plan and the re-irradiation plan showed that the median D2cc increased from 130 Gy (range 113-132 Gy; conventional) to 140 Gy (range 115-145 Gy; DPBC).

Conclusions: Our proposed DPBC could be straightforwardly implemented and all plans met the objectives. Re-irradiation of HNC with DPBC may increase tumor control without more side effects compared to conventional radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size / radiation effects
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Radiotherapy Dosage*
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Re-Irradiation / methods*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / diagnosis
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / pathology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / radiotherapy*
  • Tumor Burden / radiation effects


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18