Predictors of Pneumonitis in Combined Thoracic Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy and Immunotherapy

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2022 Jun 23;S0360-3016(22)00613-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2022.06.068. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Thoracic stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is associated with high rates of local control but carries a risk of pneumonitis. Immunotherapy is a standard treatment for patients with metastatic disease but can also cause pneumonitis. To evaluate the feasibility and safety of thoracic SBRT with systemic immunotherapy, clinical outcomes of patients treated with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) and SBRT on prospective trials were reviewed.

Methods and materials: Three consecutive phase 1 trials of combination SBRT and ICB conducted between 2016 to 2020 for widely metastatic solid tumors were reviewed. The protocols mandated adherence to NRG BR001/BR002 organs at risk constraints, resulting in <100% coverage of some target volumes. ICB was administered either sequentially (within 7 days after completion of SBRT) or concurrently (before or at the start of SBRT), depending on protocol. End points included pneumonitis, dose-volume constraints, local failure, and overall survival. The cumulative incidence estimator and Kaplan-Meier method were used.

Results: In the study, 123 patients met eligibility with 311 metastases irradiated. The most common histologies included non-small cell lung cancer (33%) and colorectal cancer (12%). Median follow-up was 12 months. The overall rate of grade 3+ pneumonitis was 8.1%; 1-year local failure was 3.6%. Established dosimetric parameters were significantly associated with the development of pneumonitis (P < .05). In most patients, the lungs were not challenged with high doses of radiation, defined as receiving ≥75% of the maximum for a given lung dose-volume constraint. Patients who were challenged were not found to have a significantly higher risk of pneumonitis.

Conclusions: In the largest series of thoracic SBRT and immunotherapy, local control was excellent with acceptable toxicity and support the conclusion that established dose-volume constraints for the lung are safe. However, these results highlight the potential value in reporting of organs at risk being challenged with doses approaching protocol specified limits.