Pulmonary dose tolerance in hemithorax radiotherapy for Ewing sarcoma of the chest wall: Are we overestimating the risk of radiation pneumonitis?

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2021 Nov;68(11):e29287. doi: 10.1002/pbc.29287. Epub 2021 Aug 16.


Background: Children with chest wall Ewing sarcoma with malignant pulmonary effusion or pleural stranding require hemithorax radiation, often with plans that exceed lung constraints. We investigated disease control and pneumonitis in children requiring hemithorax radiation.

Procedure: Eleven children (median age 13 years) received hemithorax radiotherapy. Symptomatic radiation pneumonitis was considered National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) grade 1+ with respiratory symptoms. Mean lung dose (MLD), volume of lung exposed to a dose ≥5 Gy (V5), ≥20 Gy (V20), and ≥35 Gy (V35) were recorded. Adult and pediatric lung constraints were obtained from Quantitative Analysis of Normal Tissue Effects in the Clinic (QUANTEC) guidelines and Children's Oncology Group (COG) protocols, respectively.

Results: Median hemithorax dose was 15 Gy (1.5 Gy/fraction). Median total dose was 51 Gy (1.8 Gy/fraction). Most plans delivered both protons and photons. The ipsilateral MLD, V5, and V20 were 27.2 Gy, 100%, and 48.3%; the bilateral MLD, V20, and V35 were 14.1 Gy, 22.8%, and 14.3%, respectively. One hundred percent, 36%, and 91% of treatments exceeded recommended adult ipsilateral lung constraints of V5 <65%, V20 <52%, and MLD of 22 Gy; 64%, 45%, and 82% exceeded COG bilateral lung constraints of V20 <20%, MLD <15 Gy, and MLD <12 Gy, respectively; 82% of treatments exceeded the COG ipsilateral lung constraint of V20 <30%. At a median 36 months (range 12-129), the symptomatic radiation pneumonitis incidence was 0%. Two patients progressed with nonpulmonary metastatic disease and died at a median 12 months following radiotherapy.

Conclusions: Existing guidelines may overestimate pneumonitis risk, even among young children receiving multiagent chemotherapy. For children with chest wall Ewing sarcoma and other thoracic malignancies, more data are needed to refine pediatric dose-effect models for pulmonary toxicity.

Keywords: dose tolerance; pediatric oncology; radiation oncology; radiation pneumonitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Lung Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Radiation Pneumonitis* / etiology
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Sarcoma, Ewing* / radiotherapy
  • Thoracic Wall* / pathology