Adaptive Radiotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer: Implications for Clinical and Dosimetry Outcomes

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To investigate the effects of adaptive radiotherapy on dosimetric, clinical, and toxicity outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer undergoing chemoradiotherapy with intensity-modulated radiotherapy.


Fifty-one patients with advanced head and neck cancer underwent definitive chemoradiotherapy with the original plan optimized to deliver 70.2 Gy. All patients were resimulated at a median dose of 37.8 Gy (range, 27.0-48.6 Gy) due to changes in tumor volume and/or patient weight loss (>15% from baseline). Thirty-four patients underwent adaptive replanning for their boost planning (21.6 Gy). The dosimetric effects of the adaptive plan were compared to the original plan and the original plan copied on rescan computed tomography. Acute and late toxicities and tumor local control were assessed. Gross tumor volume reduction rate was calculated.


With adaptive replanning, the maximum dose to the spinal cord, brain stem, mean ipsilateral, and contralateral parotid had a median reduction of −4.5%, −3.0%, −6.2%, and −2.5%, respectively (median of 34 patients). Median gross tumor volume and boost planning target volume coverage improved by 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively. With a median follow-up time of 17.6 months, median disease-free survival and overall survival was 14.8 and 21.1 months, respectively. Median tumor volume reduction rate was 35.2%. For patients with tumor volume reduction rate ≤35.2%, median disease-free survival was 8.7 months, whereas it was 16.9 months for tumor volume reduction rate >35.2%. Four patients had residual disease after chemoradiotherapy, whereas 64.7% (20 of 34) of patients achieved locoregional control.


Implementation of adaptive radiotherapy in head and neck cancer offers benefits including improvement in tumor coverage and decrease in dose to organs at risk. The tumor volume reduction rate during treatment was significantly correlated with disease-free survival and overall survival.

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