Background and purpose: To investigate the impact of unilateral neck irradiation (UNI) of well-lateralized oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) on outcome and toxicity. Materials and methods: Unilateral neck IMRT was applied to 185 consecutive patients with well-lateralized OPC (restricted to tonsillar fossa, soft palate with at least 1 cm from midline or lateral pharyngeal wall). Endpoints were regional control (RC), local control (LC), disease-free survival (DFS), overall survival (OS), and toxicity. Results: Six regional failures were reported (3.2%); 2 were contralateral (1.1%). The 5-year Kaplan-Meier estimates of RC, LC, DFS, and OS were 96%, 91%, 84%, and 70%, respectively. Feeding tube was given to 11.3%. Chemotherapy was significantly predictive for toxicity. However, no patient was still feeding tube dependent 6 weeks after treatment. Overall grade 3 late toxicity was 2.2%. Grade 3 xerostomia was reported in only 1 patient while no patient developed grade 3 dysphagia. Conclusion: This largest study on unilateral neck IMRT for well-lateralized OPC showed excellent outcome and favorable toxicity profile. Given the increasing incidence of OPC, especially among younger patients, and the favorable results reported in the current study and by other investigators, expanding the indications for UNI still needs to be further investigated in prospective, preferably, randomized trials.

Head and neck cancer, IMRT, Oropharyngeal cancer, Toxicity, Unilateral neck irradiation,
Radiotherapy & Oncology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Al-Mamgani, A, van Rooij, P.H, Fransen, D, & Levendag, P.C. (2013). Unilateral neck irradiation for well-lateralized oropharyngeal cancer. Radiotherapy & Oncology, 106(1), 69–73. doi:10.1016/j.radonc.2012.12.006