Tubarial salivary gland sparing with proton therapy


      The recently identified bilateral macroscopic tubarial salivary glands present a potential opportunity for further toxicity mitigation for patients receiving head and neck radiotherapy. Here, we show superior dosimetric sparing of the tubarial salivary glands with proton radiation therapy (PRT) compared to intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for patients treated postoperatively for human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). This was a retrospective, single institutional study of all patients treated with adjuvant PRT for HPV-associated OPSCC from 2015 to 2019. Each patient had a treatment-approved, equivalent IMRT plan to serve as a reference. The main end point was dose delivered to the tubarial salivary glands by modality, assessed via a 2-tailed, paired t-test. We also report disease outcomes for the entire cohort, via the Kaplan-Meier method. Sixty-four patients were identified. The mean RT dose to the tubarial salivary glands was 23.6 Gy (95% confidence interval (CI) 21.7 to 25.5) and 30.4 Gy (28.6 to 32.2) for PRT and IMRT plans (p < 0.0001), respectively. With a median follow-up of 25.2 months, the two-year locoregional control, progression-free survival and overall survival were 97.8% (95% CI 85.6% to 99.7%), 94.1% (82.8% to 98.1%) and 98.1% (87.4% to 99.7%), respectively. Our study suggests that meaningful normal tissue sparing of the recently identified tubarial salivary glands is achievable with PRT. The apparent gains with PRT did not impact disease outcomes, with only 1 observed locoregional recurrence (0 local, 1 regional). Further studies are warranted to explore the impact of the improved dosimetric sparing of the tubarial salivary glands conveyed by PRT on patient toxicity and quality of life.


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