Central Review of Radiation Therapy Planning Among Patients With Breast-Conserving Surgery: Results From a Quality Assurance Process Integrated Into the INSEMA Trial

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2020 Jul 15;107(4):683-693. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.04.042. Epub 2020 May 11.


Purpose: After publication of the radiation field design in the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group Z0011 trial, a radiation therapy quality assurance review was integrated into the Intergroup-Sentinel-Mamma (INSEMA) trial. We aimed to investigate the role of patient characteristics, extent of axillary surgery, and radiation techniques for dose distribution in ipsilateral axillary levels.

Methods and materials: INSEMA (NCT02466737) has randomized 5542 patients who underwent breast-conserving surgery. Of these, 276 patients from 108 radiation therapy facilities were included in the central review, using the planning records of the first 3 patients treated at each site.

Results: Of the 276 patients, 41 had major deviations (ie, no axillary contouring or submission of insufficient records) leading to exclusion. A total of 235 (85.1%) radiation therapy planning records were delineated according to the INSEMA protocol, including 9 (3.8%) cases with minor deviations. At least 25% of INSEMA patients were unintentionally treated with ≥95% of the prescribed breast radiation dose in axillary level I. Approximately 50% of patients were irradiated with a median radiation dose of more than 85% of prescription dose in level I. Irradiated volumes and applied doses were significantly lower in levels II and III compared with level I. However, 25% of patients still received a median radiation dose of ≥75% of prescription dose to level II. Subgroup analysis revealed a significant association between incidental radiation dose in the axilla and obesity. Younger age, boost application, and fractionation schedule showed no impact on axillary dose distribution.

Conclusions: Assuming ≥80% of prescribed breast dose as the optimal dose for curative radiation of low-volume disease in axillary lymph nodes, at least 50% of reviewed INSEMA patients received an adequate dose in level I, even with contemporary 3-dimensional techniques. Dose coverage was much less in axillary levels II and III, and far below therapeutically relevant doses.