Journal Article
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
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Cutaneous angiosarcoma of the head and neck. A therapeutic dilemma.

Cancer 1995 July 16
BACKGROUND: Because of a tendency for diffuse, clinically undetectable local spread, cutaneous angiosarcoma is difficult to treat with surgery alone. Radiation is a rational treatment modality for this disease, because a wide region of dermis can be treated, whereas the underlying normal tissues are spared.

METHODS: The authors retrospectively studied 14 patients with dermal angiosarcoma of the head and neck who were treated with electron-beam radiation from 1970 to 1989. Primary tumors were located in the scalp and forehead (11 patients) and in the upper face (3 patients). Eleven patients presented with multiple foci of disease. Three patients were treated with radiotherapy alone; the other 11 were treated with chemotherapy (10 patients) and/or surgery (7 patients). Surgical excisions were limited procedures for patients whose disease readily could be encompassed; total scalp resections were not performed. Patients were irradiated with a multiple-field electron-beam technique. Six patients presented postoperatively for radiotherapy with no macroscopic disease in the treatment field and were given a median dose of 60 Gy (range, 50-66 Gy) over a median of 40 days (range, 37-43 days). Eight patients were irradiated with clinically evident disease; doses ranged from 55 to 75 Gy over a median of 44 days (range, 33-66 days).

RESULTS: Five of the six patients irradiated without clinically detectable disease were controlled in the treatment field, but only two are currently disease free. Of the eight patients irradiated with macroscopic tumor, initial disease recurrence occurred in the radiation field in two patients and at the radiation field margin in three patients. The actuarial 5-year control rates above the clavicles for patients irradiated with and without clinical disease were 24% and 40%, respectively (P = 0.03). The 5-year actuarial incidence of distant metastases for all patients was 63%. The 5-year actuarial survival rate for patients irradiated with and without clinical disease was 13% and 50%, respectively (P = .04).

CONCLUSIONS: Radiation is an effective modality for treating local disease, especially when used after surgical resection of macroscopic tumor. Our current strategy is to resect clinically evident tumor in patients presenting with focal, limited disease, and to follow this resection with moderate dose, very wide-field radiation. The survival outcome for patients presenting with diffuse multifocal disease is bleak, but some patients can be controlled infield with radiation. There must be continued efforts to develop effective systemic therapy.

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