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Accelerated hyperfractionation compared to conventional fractionation in the postoperative radiotherapy of locally advanced head and neck cancer Influence of proliferation


, : Accelerated hyperfractionation compared to conventional fractionation in the postoperative radiotherapy of locally advanced head and neck cancer Influence of proliferation. British Journal of Cancer 86(4): 517-523, 12 February

Based on the assumption that an accelerated proliferation process prevails in tumour cell residues after surgery, the possibility that treatment acceleration would offer a therapeutic advantage in postoperative radiotherapy of locally advanced head and neck cancer was investigated. The value of Tpot in predicting the treatment outcome and in selecting patients for accelerated fractionation was tested. Seventy patients with (T2/N1-N2) or (T3-4/any N) squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, larynx and hypopharynx who underwent radical surgery, were randomized to either (a) accelerated hyperfractionation: 46.2 Gy per 12 days, 1.4 Gy per fraction, three fractions per day with 6 h interfraction interval, treating 6 days per week or (b) Conventional fractionation: 60 Gy per 6 weeks, 2 Gy per fraction, treating 5 days per week. The 3-year locoregional control rate was significantly better in the accelerated hyperfractionation (88+-4%) than in the CF (57+-9%) group, P=0.01 (and this was confirmed by multivariate analysis), but the difference in survival (60+-10% vs 46+-9%) was not significant (P=0.29). The favourable influence of a short treatment time was further substantiated by demonstrating the importance of the gap between surgery and radiotherapy and the overall treatment time between surgery and end of radiotherapy. Early mucositis progressed more rapidly and was more severe in the accelerated hyperfractionation group; reflecting a faster rate of dose accumulation. Xerostomia was experienced by all patients with a tendency to be more severe after accelerated hyperfractionation. Fibrosis and oedema also tended to be more frequent after accelerated hyperfractionation and probably represent consequential reactions. Tpot showed a correlation with disease-free survival in a univariate analysis but did not prove to be an independent factor. Moreover, the use of the minimum and corrected P-values did not identify a significant cut-off. Compared to conventional fractionation, accelerated hyperfractionation did not seem to offer a survival advantage in fast tumours though a better local control rate was noted. This limits the use of Tpot as a guide for selecting patients for accelerated hyperfractionation. For slowly growing tumours, tumour control and survival probabilities were not significantly different in the conventional fractionation and accelerated hyperfractionation groups. A rapid tumour growth was associated with a higher risk of distant metastases (P=0.01). In conclusion, tumour cell repopulation seems to be an important determinant of postoperative radiotherapy of locally advanced head and neck cancer despite lack of a definite association between Tpot and treatment outcome. In fast growing tumours accelerated hyperfractionation provided an improved local control but without a survival advantage. To gain a full benefit from treatment acceleration, the surgery-radiotherapy gap and the overall treatment time should not exceed 6 and 10 weeks respectively.

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