Radiation dose-painting with protons vs. photons for head-and-neck cancer

Katrin Håkansson, Bob Smulders, Lena Specht, Mingyao Zhu, Jeppe Friborg, Jacob H Rasmussen, Søren M Bentzen, Ivan R Vogelius

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Dose-painting has recently been investigated in early-phase trials in head-and-neck cancer (HNC) with the aim of improving local tumor control. At the same time proton therapy has been reported as potentially capable of decreasing toxicity. Here, we investigate whether protons could be applied in a dose-painting setting by comparing proton dose distributions with delivered photon plans from a phase-I trial of FDG-PET based dose-painting at our institution.Material and methods: Eleven oropharynx (5), hypopharynx (2) and larynx cancer (4) patients from the recently conducted phase I trial were used for comparison of proton and photon dose-painting techniques. Robust optimization (3.5%/3 mm) was used for proton plans. Plan robustness and difference in dose metrics to targets and organs at risk were evaluated.Results: The proton plans met target dose constraints, while having lower non-target dose than photon plans (body-minus-CTV, mean dose 3.9 Gy vs 7.2 Gy, p = .004). Despite the use of robust proton planning for plan max dose, photon plan max doses were more robust (p = .006). Max dose to medulla, brainstem and mandible were lower in the proton plans, while there was no significant difference in mean dose to submandibular- and parotid glands.Conclusion: Proton dose-painting for HNC seems feasible and can reduce the non-target dose overall, however not significantly to certain organs close to the target, such as the salivary glands. Max dose in proton plans had a lower robustness compared to photons, requiring caution to avoid unintended hot spots in consideration of the risk of mucosal toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Oncologica
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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