Prospects for online adaptive radiation therapy (ART) for head and neck cancer

Radiat Oncol. 2024 Jan 8;19(1):4. doi: 10.1186/s13014-023-02390-6.


Background: The aim of the present study is to examine the impact of kV-CBCT-based online adaptive radiation therapy (ART) on dosimetric parameters in comparison to image-guided-radiotherapy (IGRT) in consecutive patients with tumors in the head and neck region from a prospective registry.

Methods: The study comprises all consecutive patients with tumors in the head and neck area who were treated with kV-CBCT-based online ART or IGRT-modus at the linear-accelerator ETHOS™. As a measure of effectiveness, the equivalent-uniform-dose was calculated for the CTV (EUDCTV) and organs-at-risk (EUDOAR) and normalized to the prescribed dose. As an important determinant for the need of ART the interfractional shifts of anatomic landmarks related to the tongue were analyzed and compared to the intrafractional shifts. The latter determine the performance of the adapted dose distribution on the verification CBCT2 postadaptation.

Results: Altogether 59 consecutive patients with tumors in the head-and-neck-area were treated from 01.12.2021 to 31.01.2023. Ten of all 59 patients (10/59; 16.9%) received at least one phase within a treatment course with ART. Of 46 fractions in the adaptive mode, irradiation was conducted in 65.2% of fractions with the adaptive-plan, the scheduled-plan in the remaining. The dispersion of the distributions of EUDCTV-values from the 46 dose fractions differed significantly between the scheduled and adaptive plans (Ansari-Bradley-Test, p = 0.0158). Thus, the 2.5th percentile of the EUDCTV-values by the adaptive plans amounted 97.1% (95% CI 96.6-99.5%) and by the scheduled plans 78.1% (95% CI 61.8-88.7%). While the EUDCTV for the accumulated dose distributions stayed above 95% at PTV-margins of ≥ 3 mm for all 8 analyzed treatment phases the scheduled plans did for margins ≥ 5 mm. The intrafractional anatomic shifts of all 8 measured anatomic landmarks were smaller than the interfractional with overall median values of 8.5 mm and 5.5 mm (p < 0.0001 for five and p < 0.05 for all parameters, pairwise comparisons, signed-rank-test). The EUDOAR-values for the larynx and the parotid gland were significantly lower for the adaptive compared with the scheduled plans (Wilcoxon-test, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: The mobile tongue and tongue base showed considerable interfractional variations. While PTV-margins of 5 mm were sufficient for IGRT, ART showed the potential of decreasing PTV-margins and spare dose to the organs-at-risk.

Keywords: Automatic segmentation; Dose gradients; Head and neck; Online adaptive radiation therapy; Organs at risk.

MeSH terms

  • Head
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Neck
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiotherapy, Image-Guided*