You are in PORTALS Digital Radiography Promising Results Reported in Unilateral RT for Advanced Stage Tonsil Cancer

Promising Results Reported in Unilateral RT for Advanced Stage Tonsil Cancer

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According to a recent study, presented at the 2014 Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium, limiting radiation therapy (RT) to lymph nodes on one side of the neck for advanced tonsil cancer led to a good local regional control and no cancer recurrence on the untreated side. Moreover, the study results signify that main tumor location, rather than the amount of lymph node involvement on the tumor side of the neck, determines the risk for disease in the opposite side of the neck.


The study centered on 46 out of 153 total patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil who underwent treatment between 1997 and 2012 at Washington University in St. Louis.


Tumor location was well accounted for in the 46 patients who underwent unilateral RT, with 40 patients (87 percent) having lateralized (located on one side of the throat) primary tumors; two patients (4 percent) had non-lateralized tumors, and in four patients (9 percent), lateralization was inconclusive retrospectively. The patients received surgical resection and postoperative intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), with 30 patients also undergoing simultaneous chemotherapy.

Of the subset of 46 patients treated unilaterally, 72 percent were men, and the median patient age was 59. Sixty-one percent of patients were current or former smokers. The cancer stage/classification for the study group was: TX = 2 percent (1); T1 = 44 percent (20); T2 = 41 percent (19); and T3 = 13 percent (6). The patients' stages of lymph node involvement were: N0 = 11 percent (5); N1 = 13 percent (6); and N2 = 76 percent (35). The prescribed radiation doses were 60-66 Gy to the postoperative bed and involved neck; and 52-54 Gy to the elective neck in 30-33 fractions using a simultaneous integrated boost technique.tonsil cancer

The average follow-up time period was 2.8 years (range was .4 to 8.7 years). There were no local or regional recurrences reported, meaning the cancer did not recur in the neighboring nodes or the initial location of the cancer in any of the patients. Distant metastasis, meaning the cancer spread from the original tumor location to distant organs or lymph nodes, developed in four (9 percent) of the patients. Two patients developed second primary (new) cancers.

"All treatments for cancer, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, although effective, can cause temporary and/or permanent toxicity which can affect long-term quality of life. Our research indicates that for appropriately selected patients with tonsil cancer, the volume of radiation therapy necessary to control the cancer can be significantly reduced, therefore reducing the side effects and toxicity of radiation, while maintaining a high rate of tumor control,” said study author, chief of Head and Neck Services, and associate professor of Radiation Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine, Wade Thorstad, M.D.

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