Chinese scientists have developed an improved technique for re-irradiation treatment of locally advanced recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma that aims to reduce the toxicity to which patients are subjected, according to the Cancer Center of Sun Yat-sen University. The study’s findings have been published in the prestigious journal The Lancet.
Radiotherapy is the most critical radical treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma. However, 10 to 20 percent of patients experience local recurrence after radiotherapy, and around 70 percent of those with recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma require re-irradiation treatment. Unfortunately, the standard form of re-irradiation has significant side effects, and the curative effect is not always good, with about 40 percent of patients ultimately dying due to substantial late toxicity.
To tackle this problem, research teams based in Guangzhou, China, used the hyperfractionation method in a phase-three trial in 2015. In this method, patients were given radiotherapy twice daily, with fewer doses compared to the original treatment of once a day with standard doses. The results of the study showed that patients receiving hyperfractionated radiotherapy had a three-year overall survival rate of 74.6 percent, compared to 55 percent for those using the standard fractionation method.
Additionally, patients using the hyperfractionation method showed better long-term quality of life in terms of overall health status, role function, social function, pain, economic difficulties, and loss of appetite. The study’s lead author, Chen Mingyuan, stated that this new method of re-irradiation can significantly reduce toxicity, which will improve the quality of life for patients.
The findings are significant because patients with recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma have limited treatment options, and re-irradiation is often the only viable option. By reducing the toxicity of this treatment, it may now become a more widely accepted method, which could save many lives. Moreover, the hyperfractionation method can be easily implemented in clinical settings and has the potential to improve the lives of many patients worldwide.