Electron arc irradiation of the postmastectomy chest wall with CT treatment planning: 20-year experience

D K Gaffney, D D Leavitt, A Tsodikov, L Smith, G Watson, G Patton, F A Gibbs, J R Stewart
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2001 November 15, 51 (4): 994-1001

PURPOSE: Since 1980, electron arc irradiation of the postmastectomy chest wall has been the preferred radiotherapy technique at the University of Utah for patients with advanced breast cancer. We report the results of this technique in 156 consecutive Stage IIA-IIIB patients treated from 1980 to 1998.

METHODS: CT treatment planning was used in all patients to identify chest wall thickness and internal mammary lymph node depth. Computerized dosimetry was used to deliver total doses of 50 Gy in 5-1/2 weeks to the chest wall and the internal mammary lymph nodes with electron arc therapy. Patients were assessed for local, regional, and distant control of disease and for survival. Univariate and multivariate proportional hazards were modeled using a hierarchical nonproportional semiparametric model testing the following prognostic factors: age, stage, tumor size, number of positive lymph nodes, estrogen receptor status, and dose. End points evaluated included disease-free survival, cause-specific survival, and overall survival.

RESULTS: Eighty-one percent of patients were at high risk for local-regional failure because of > T2 primary tumor or > 3 positive axillary lymph nodes. The median number of positive lymph nodes was 5, and the median tumor size was 3.5 cm. Actuarial 10-year local-regional control and overall survival were 95% and 52%, respectively. In multivariate analysis, the only factor prognostic for disease-free survival, cause-specific survival, and overall survival was the number of positive lymph nodes (p < 0.001). The 10-year rates of local-regional control for patients with 0, 1-3, 4-9, and > or = 10 involved lymph nodes were 100%, 98%, 93%, and 89%, respectively. The only rates of acute and chronic radiotherapy toxicity > or = 2 by RTOG/EORTC criteria were skin related and observed in 44% and 10% for acute and late reactions, respectively.

CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate excellent local-regional control rates with electron arc therapy of the postmastectomy chest wall in patients with advanced breast cancer. Our 20-year experience with electron arc radiotherapy has demonstrated the safety and efficacy of this technique. The advantage of this technique is that the internal mammary lymph node chain can be easily encompassed while the dose to heart and lung is minimized; it also obviates match lines in areas of high risk.

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