[Proton therapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinomas: From physics to clinic]

Cancer Radiother. 2019 Sep;23(5):439-448. doi: 10.1016/j.canrad.2019.05.015. Epub 2019 Jul 26.
[Article in French]


Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is presently the recommended technique for the treatment of locally advanced head and neck carcinomas. Proton therapy would allow to reduce the volume of irradiated normal tissue and, thus, to decrease the risk of late dysphagia, xerostomia, dysgeusia and hypothyroidism. An exhaustive research was performed with the search engine PubMed by focusing on the papers about the physical difficulties that slow down use of proton therapy for head and neck carcinomas. Range uncertainties in proton therapy (±3 %) paradoxically limit the use of the steep dose gradient in distality. Calibration uncertainties can be important in the treatment of head and neck cancer in the presence of materials of uncertain stoichiometric composition (such as with metal implants, dental filling, etc.) and complex heterogeneities. Dental management for example may be different with IMRT or proton therapy. Some uncertainties can be somewhat minimized at the time of optimization. Inter- and intrafractional variations and uncertainties in Hounsfield units/stopping power can be integrated in a robust optimization process. Additional changes in patient's anatomy (tumour shrinkage, changes in skin folds in the beam patch, large weight loss or gain) require rescanning. Dosimetric and small clinical studies comparing photon and proton therapy have well shown the interest of proton therapy for head and neck cancers. Intensity-modulated proton therapy is a promising treatment as it can reduce the substantial toxicity burden of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma compared to IMRT. Robust optimization will allow to perform an optimal treatment and to use proton therapy in current clinical practice.

Keywords: Cancers de la tête et du cou; Image-guided; Proton therapy; Protonthérapie; Radiotherapy; Radiothérapie guidée par l’image; Squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Dysgeusia / etiology
  • Dysgeusia / prevention & control
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Health Physics*
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / etiology
  • Hypothyroidism / prevention & control
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Organs at Risk
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiation Oncology*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiotherapy, Image-Guided
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / adverse effects
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / radiotherapy*
  • Translational Medical Research*
  • Uncertainty
  • Xerostomia / etiology
  • Xerostomia / prevention & control