A Study of SBRT for Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck

Official Title

A Phase 2 Study of SBRT for Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck


To evaluate the tumour response rate of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck following stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) of 45Gy in 5 fractions delivered once every 3-4 days, such that treatment is completed within 15 days.

Trial Description

Primary Outcome:

  • Tumour response rate
Secondary Outcome:
  • Number of participants with Acute and Late Toxicity
  • Local Control
  • Quality of Life as measured by the FACT-HN questionnaire
Cancers of the head and neck region account for approximately 4% of all new cancer cases. Primary skin cancers are the most common malignancy diagnosed in North America with the majority of tumours arising in the cervico-facial region.Together, these tumours comprise a high burden of illness and are often characterized by locally advanced, non-metastatic disease.

Determining the optimal treatment for individual patients with advanced cervico-facial cancers of the skin or primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is clinically challenging; standard treatments include combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, all of which are associated with high rates of acute toxicity and complications. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials did not demonstrate benefit with concurrent chemotherapy in patients over the age of 70 or with performance status ≥ 2, and it is recognized that the high burden of medical co-morbidities in HNSCC is associated with poorer prognosis. Some patients without distant metastases may be deemed to have 'incurable' disease due to very advanced tumours, recurrence, severe medical co-morbidities or frailty that prohibit the use of standard surgery, general anaesthetic and/or radiation therapy over 6-7 weeks.

When conventional surgery and/or radiation therapy are not recommended by the multi-disciplinary team then patients may be treated with shorter, hypo-fractionated radiation therapy with the goal of symptom relief and local control but at the cost of a lower biological dose. Investigators at the Juravinski Cancer Centre published retrospective results from the '0-7-21' regimen using 24 Gy / 3 fractions which was well tolerated and provided temporary symptom relief in 82% of patients but reported 6 month progression free survival of 39% within the irradiated field; a phase 2 study of previously untreated HNSCC patients deemed to have incurable disease used up to 42 Gy/12 fractions and demonstrated similar rates of initial response and symptom relief but a short progression free survival duration of 3.1 months. One study reported an institutional experience of palliative radiation therapy in newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients who were deemed to have incurable disease and received a wide range of dose/fractionation regimens. The median radiation dose was 50 Gy and between 57-82% of patients were reported to have any radiological, clinical or symptomatic response to treatment. In these three studies, the patients were older with median ages of 71, 73, and 77 years - and median survival was short 5.2, 5.7 and 6.2 months.

With respect to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin, there is limited evidence to guide treatment in patients with unresectable or medically inoperable disease, particularly in the head and neck region. There is a need for prospective data on non-surgical treatment options for frail older adults which improve efficacy while limiting the treatment burden.

SBRT can limit the number of treatments while delivering a higher, potentially curative dose. An international consortium of 15 high volume cancer centres reported on a survey of practices using SBRT for head and neck cancers. There was heterogeneity in the indications, techniques and doses reported by various institutions. The most common indication was in the setting of recurrent disease and reported doses were in the range of 35-50 Gy in 3-5 fractions. Several institutions reported 1-2 year local control rates of 65-90% with SBRT and acceptable levels of toxicity. To our knowledge, there are no prospective clinical studies evaluating tumour response, toxicity and quality of life in previously unirradiated patients.

The goal of the current study is to prospectively evaluate tumour response, toxicity and patient quality of life in patients with HNSCC undergoing SBRT.

View this trial on ClinicalTrials.gov

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