Ideal doses of IMRT defined to reduce treatment side effects for head and neck cancer

DENVER, Oct. 18 Results from a University of Pittsburgh study evaluating intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for head and neck cancer determined the ideal doses for lessening treatment side effects. The findings were presented today at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in Denver.

"Despite major advances in chemotherapy and radiation for the treatment of head and neck cancers, many patients continue to suffer debilitating side effects that greatly impact their quality of life," said Dwight E. Heron, M.D., study co-author and associate professor of radiation oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of radiation oncology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "While these high-energy beams are targeted to the tumor site as precisely as possible, they often inadvertently injure healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor site, limiting the doses of radiation that can be used to effectively destroy cancer cells. With this study, we sought to discover whether tightly focused radiation beams, such as those provided by IMRT, would make a difference in the severity of side effects associated with treatment and found a distinct dose-response relationship in the oral cavity of patients treated with IMRT in addition to chemotherapy."

In the study, 70 patients with head and neck cancer were treated with IMRT using the Eclipse Planning System, Varian Medical Systems and chemotherapy. Patients were treated from April 2002 through September 2004 and were evaluated for grade level of oral mucositis, or inflammation, based on the volume of IMRT dose administered. Oral mucositis not only causes pain, but also can affect speech, the ability to eat or drink and to take oral medication. Patients with severe cases may require tube feeding.

Results indicated that the severity of side effects, or the grade of oral mucositis, was directly correlated with the volume of the r


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