Patients with cancer of the head and neck may benefit from higher doses of radiation therapy that are administered twice daily compared to standard therapy consisting of lower doses administered once a day, according to a recent study published in the
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics.
The term head and neck cancer is used to refer to a number of cancers that may occur in the head and/or neck. These may include cancers of the tongue, mouth, salivary glands, pharynx, sinus, and other sites located in the head and neck area. Locally advanced head and neck cancer refers to cancer that has spread away from its site of origin but has not spread to distant sites within the body. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy, depending on the specific type, location, and stage (extent of disease) of the cancer.
Currently, it is standard therapy to administer radiation once a day to patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer. In one of the largest clinical trials of the past 2 decades involving the treatment of head and neck cancer, different frequencies and doses of radiation therapy were compared to the standard radiation therapy regimen to determine optimal effectiveness. Over 1,000 patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer received radiation therapy either once daily or twice daily at differing doses. Higher doses of radiation were delivered to the group of patients receiving treatment twice daily, whereas standard doses of radiation were delivered to the group of patients receiving treatment once daily. Two years following treatment, 56% of patients receiving radiation treatment twice daily did not have a local cancer recurrence, compared with 46% of patients who received radiation once daily.
These results indicate that the risk of a local cancer recurrence may be reduced in patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer by increased frequency and doses of radiation therapy compared to the standard radiation therapy regimen. Persons with head and neck cancer may wish to speak with their physician about this radiation therapy regimen or about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial evaluating other promising treatment strategies. (
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, Vol 48, pp 7-16, 2000)