Twice-Daily Radiation Therapy May Reduce Mortality in Head/Neck Cancer



The method we used—network meta-analysis—which combines direct and indirect treatment comparisons, is a new method that needs to be interpreted with prudence.
— Claire Petit, PhD

Treating patients with head and neck cancer with hyperfractionated twice-daily radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may potentially reduce mortality, according to new research presented by Claire Petit, PhD, and colleagues at the 2017 European Cancer Congress (ECCO).1

The study included patients with tumors in their mouths, throats, or larynges that had already begun to metastasize locally. These patients tend to have lower rates of survival than those whose cancer was diagnosed at an earlier stage.

By splitting the daily radiotherapy in two portions, a higher and more effective dose can be given to patients. The researchers hope this can be achieved without increasing side effects.

Study Results

The researchers used the relatively new technique of network meta-analysis to bring together data from 117 different trials, including 28,804 patients from around the world. This approach allowed them to compare 16 different treatments to find out which was best at reducing the spread of cancer and deaths from the disease.

They discovered that the twice-daily radiation treatment, when combined with chemotherapy, cut deaths by 20% compared with the best standard treatment of once-daily radiotherapy with chemotherapy. It also reduced the risk of cancer progression by 23%.

Dr. Petit, a resident in radiation oncology from Institut Gustave Roussy, told the Congress: “There are a number of new treatments that have shown promise in head and neck cancer trials. This large study has enabled us to compare several of these treatments to see which is best overall in terms of reducing mortality.”

Dr. Petit cautioned that she has not yet studied the side effects experienced by patients and that more research is needed to examine toxicity and confirm the results.”

She added: “The method we used—network meta-analysis—which combines direct and indirect treatment comparisons, is a new method that needs to be interpreted with prudence. However, this is an important finding for this group of patients.” ■

Disclosure: Dr. Petit reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Reference

1. Petit C, et al: 2017 European Cancer Congress. Abstract 823. Presented January 28, 2017.


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