PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine, by treatment plan comparison along with normal tissue complication probability (NTCP) modeling, whether a subpopulation of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) could be identified that would gain substantial benefit from proton therapy in terms of NTCP. METHODS AND MATERIALS: For 45 HNSCC patients, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) was compared to intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT). Physical dose distributions were evaluated as well as the resulting NTCP values, using modern models for acute mucositis, xerostomia, aspiration, dysphagia, laryngeal edema, and trismus. Patient subgroups were defined based on primary tumor location. RESULTS: Generally, IMPT reduced the NTCP values while keeping similar target coverage for all patients. Subgroup analyses revealed a higher individual reduction of swallowing-related side effects by IMPT for patients with tumors in the upper head and neck area, whereas the risk reduction of acute mucositis was more pronounced in patients with tumors in the larynx region. More patients with tumors in the upper head and neck area had a reduction in NTCP of more than 10%. CONCLUSIONS: Subgrouping can help to identify patients who may benefit more than others from the use of IMPT and, thus, can be a useful tool for a preselection of patients in the clinic where there are limited PT resources. Because the individual benefit differs within a subgroup, the relative merits should additionally be evaluated by individual treatment plan comparisons.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published