Proton Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer Patients Reduces Rates of Xerostomia


Proton therapy can potentially improve the therapeutic ratio over conventional radiation therapy for oropharyngeal cancer by decreasing acute and late toxicity.

An April 2021 study published in the Green Journal by the MD Anderson team retrospectively compared patients with oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) who received conventional radiotherapy (IMRT) and proton therapy (IMPT).

This suggests that proton therapy may offer vital quality of life benefits for patients with tumours occurring in the head and neck region.

With a median follow-up time of 36.2 months, the study reported that moderate to severe xerostomia (dry mouth associated with impaired salivary gland function) was less common in the proton group when compared to the conventional radiotherapy group at 18-24 months (6% vs. 20%; p = 0.025) and at 24-36 months (6% vs. 20%; p = 0.01).

Intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT), one of the most advanced forms of proton therapy, delivers a precise dose of protons to tumours embedded in the head and neck, including the base of tongue and tonsils. Unlike conventional radiotherapy, which destroys both cancerous and healthy cells, IMPT has the ability to destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue from damage. Therefore, important quality of life outcomes such as neurocognitive function, vision, swallowing, hearing, taste and speech can be preserved in head and neck cancer patients.



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