Skin Toxicity Profile of Photon Radiotherapy versus Proton Beam Therapy in Paediatric and Young Adult Patients with Sarcomas

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2021 Aug;33(8):507-516. doi: 10.1016/j.clon.2021.03.009. Epub 2021 Apr 2.


Aims: Radiotherapy is key in the management of patients with both Ewing sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. However, there is little evidence in the literature with regards to radiation-induced skin toxicities (RISTs) for patients treated with conventional radiotherapy with X-rays (XRT) or proton beam therapy (PBT) for these two conditions. In the present study we evaluated acute and late RIST in patients treated within European protocols with either PBT or XRT, taking both clinical and dosimetric variables into consideration.

Materials and methods: This was a retrospective analysis of 79 paediatric/young adult patients treated with radical radiotherapy (with XRT or PBT) and concurrent chemotherapy. In all cases, radiotherapy was given in conventional fractionation (1.8 Gy/fraction). Acute and late RISTs were registered according to the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) scoring system.

Results: With regards to acute RIST, 47.9% (23/48) of XRT patients and 48.4% (15/31) of PBT patients had acute grade 2/3 toxicity. When it comes to late RIST, 17.5% (7/40 with known toxicity profile) of XRT patients and 29.0% (9/31) of PBT patients had grade 1/2 toxicity. This difference of -11.5% (95% confidence interval -31.2 to 7.9%) in grade 1/2 toxicity between XRT and PBT was not statistically significant (P = 0.25). Regardless of the radiotherapy technique, V30Gy seems a good predictor of acute RIST. Moreover, for the same value of V30Gy, patients who receive PBT may have a higher risk of moderate-severe acute RIST. Perhaps due to the small sample, definitive conclusions on the predictive factors of late RIST could not be drawn.

Conclusions: No clinically meaningful differences in acute and late RIST were observed between PBT and XRT subgroups. Systematic differences in the modelling of the build-up region may exist between XRT and PBT algorithms, which could make the comparison of dose metrics between techniques potentially biased. A more comprehensive analysis of dosimetric data on larger patient cohorts is needed to elucidate the most relevant skin dose metrics. Dose-effect models of RIST for this unique patient population would be an invaluable tool in radiotherapy plan optimisation.

Keywords: Dosimetric parameters; Ewing sarcoma; proton therapy; radiotherapy; rhabdomyosarcoma; skin toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Proton Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sarcoma* / radiotherapy
  • Young Adult