Halving radiation therapy provides comparable outcomes, fewer side effects in HPV-related cancer patients
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic presented the results of a Phase II study yesterday at ASTRO’s annual meeting, which showed that halving the dose and intensity of radiation therapy for patients with HPV-related throat cancer reduced side effects without impacting survival and cure rates.
“A common approach for treating HPV-related throat cancer is a combination of surgery followed by daily radiation therapy for six to 6½ weeks,” Dr. Daniel Ma said in prepared remarks. “However, the radiation treatment can cause a high degree of side effects, including altered taste, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, stiff neck and damage to the jaw bone.”
Patients with HPV-related throat cancer are often young in age, Ma noted, and therefore live a long time with life-altering side effects following treatment with standard radiation therapy.
“The goal of our trial was to see if an aggressive reduction of radiation therapy (two weeks of radiation twice daily) could maintain excellent cure rates, while significantly reducing post-treatment side effects, improving quality of life and lowering treatment costs.”
The team of researchers monitored 80 patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer with no evidence of residual disease after surgery.
Two years after the de-escalated treatment regimen, the rate of tumor control in the throat and surrounding region was 95%. Only three patients experienced a local cancer recurrence, the researchers reported, and one patient had a regional cancer recurrence.
Quality of life for the trial participants was largely improved or remained the same after treatment. Survival rates were similar to traditional survival rates for HPV-related throat cancer, Ma added.
“Patients in our trial had a very dramatic reduction in side effects, compared with standard treatment,” he said. “For example, no patient in our trial needed a feeding tube placed during dose-reduced treatment; whereas, close to a third of patients had feeding tubes placed with traditional radiation therapy doses on other recent clinical trials.”