Forecasting Individual Patient Response to Radiation Therapy in Head and Neck Cancer With a Dynamic Carrying Capacity Model

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Nov 1;111(3):693-704. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.05.132. Epub 2021 Jun 5.


Purpose: To model and predict individual patient responses to radiation therapy.

Methods and materials: We modeled tumor dynamics as logistic growth and the effect of radiation as a reduction in the tumor carrying capacity, motivated by the effect of radiation on the tumor microenvironment. The model was assessed on weekly tumor volume data collected for 2 independent cohorts of patients with head and neck cancer from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center (MCC) and the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) who received 66 to 70 Gy in standard daily fractions or with accelerated fractionation. To predict response to radiation therapy for individual patients, we developed a new forecasting framework that combined the learned tumor growth rate and carrying capacity reduction fraction (δ) distribution with weekly measurements of tumor volume reduction for a given test patient to estimate δ, which was used to predict patient-specific outcomes.

Results: The model fit data from MCC with high accuracy with patient-specific δ and a fixed tumor growth rate across all patients. The model fit data from an independent cohort from MDACC with comparable accuracy using the tumor growth rate learned from the MCC cohort, showing transferability of the growth rate. The forecasting framework predicted patient-specific outcomes with 76% sensitivity and 83% specificity for locoregional control and 68% sensitivity and 85% specificity for disease-free survival with the inclusion of 4 on-treatment tumor volume measurements.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that our simple mathematical model can describe a variety of tumor volume dynamics. Furthermore, combining historically observed patient responses with a few patient-specific tumor volume measurements allowed for the accurate prediction of patient outcomes, which may inform treatment adaptation and personalization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Tumor Burden
  • Tumor Microenvironment