Dosimetric comparison between 2-dimensional radiation therapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy in treatment of advanced T-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma: to treat less or more in the planning organ-at-risk volume of the brainstem and spinal cord

Ricky M C Chau, Peter M L Teo, Michael K M Kam, S F Leung, K Y Cheung, Anthony T C Chan
Medical Dosimetry: Official Journal of the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists 2007, 32 (4): 263-70
The aim of this study is to evaluate the deficiencies in target coverage and organ protection of 2-dimensional radiation therapy (2DRT) in the treatment of advanced T-stage (T3-4) nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and assess the extent of improvement that could be achieved with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), with special reference to of the dose to the planning organ-at-risk volume (PRV) of the brainstem and spinal cord. A dosimetric study was performed on 10 patients with advanced T-stage (T3-4 and N0-2) NPC. Computer tomography (CT) images of 2.5-mm slice thickness of the head and neck were acquired with the patient immobilized in semi-extended-head position. A 2D plan based on Ho's technique, and an IMRT plan based on a 7-coplanar portals arrangement, were established for each patient. 2DRT was planned with the field borders and shielding drawn on the simulator radiograph with reference to bony landmarks, digitized, and entered into a planning computer for reconstruction of the 3D dose distribution. The 2DRT and IMRT treatment plans were evaluated and compared with respect to the dose-volume histograms (DVHs) of the targets and the organs-at-risk (OARs), tumor control probability (TCP), and normal tissue complication probabilities (NTCPs). With IMRT, the dose coverage of the target was superior to that of 2DRT. The mean minimum dose of the GTV and PTV were increased from 33.7 Gy (2DRT) to 62.6 Gy (IMRT), and 11.9 Gy (2DRT) to 47.8 Gy (IMRT), respectively. The D(95) of the GTV and PTV were also increased from 57.1 Gy (2DRT) to 67 Gy (IMRT), and 45 Gy (2DRT) to 63.6 Gy (IMRT), respectively. The TCP was substantially increased to 78.5% in IMRT. Better protection of the critical normal organs was also achieved with IMRT. The mean maximum dose delivered to the brainstem and spinal cord were reduced significantly from 61.8 Gy (2DRT) to 52.8 Gy (IMRT) and 56 Gy (2DRT) to 43.6 Gy (IMRT), respectively, which were within the conventional dose limits of 54 Gy for brainstem and of 45 Gy for spinal cord. The mean maximum doses deposited on the PRV of the brainstem and spinal cord were 60.7 Gy and 51.6 Gy respectively, which were above the conventional dose limits. For the chiasm, the mean dose maximum and the dose to 5% of its volume were reduced from 64.3 Gy (2DRT) to 53.7 Gy (IMRT) and from 62.8 Gy (2DRT) to 48.7 Gy (IMRT), respectively, and the corresponding NTCP was reduced from 18.4% to 2.1%. For the temporal lobes, the mean dose to 10% of its volume (about 4.6 cc) was reduced from 63.8 Gy (2DRT) to 55.4 Gy (IMRT) and the NTCP was decreased from 11.7% to 3.4%. The therapeutic ratio for T3-4 NPC tumors can be significantly improved with IMRT treatment technique due to improvement both in target coverage and the sparing of the critical normal organ. Although the maximum doses delivered to the brainstem and spinal cord in IMRT can be kept at or below their conventional dose limits, the maximum doses deposited on the PRV often exceed these limits due to the close proximity between the target and OARs. In other words, ideal dosimetric considerations cannot be fulfilled in IMRT planning for T3-4 NPC tumors. A compromise of the maximal dose limit to the PRV of the brainstem and spinal cord would need be accepted if dose coverage to the targets is not to be unacceptably compromised. Dosimetric comparison with 2DRT plans show that these dose limits to PRV were also frequently exceeded in 2DRT plans for locally advanced NPC. A dedicated retrospective study on the incidence of clinical injury to neurological organs in a large series of patients with T3-4 NPC treated by 2DRT may provide useful reference data in exploring how far the PRV dose constraints may be relaxed, to maximize the target coverage without compromising the normal organ function.

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