Quality of life of postoperative photon versus proton radiation therapy for oropharynx cancer

Sonam Sharma, Olivia Zhou, Reid Thompson, Peter Gabriel, Ara Chalian, Christopher Rassekh, Gregory S. Weinstein, Bert W. O'Malley, Charu Aggarwal, Joshua Bauml, Roger B. Cohen, J. Nicholas Lukens, Samuel Swisher-McClure, Alireza F. Ghiam, Peter H. Ahn, Alexander Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: Quality of life (QOL) for patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer is negatively affected by conventional radiation (RT) owing to radiation exposure to normal tissues. Proton therapy, via pencil beam scanning (PBS), can better spare many of these tissues, and may thereby improve QOL. Patients and Methods: Patient-reported outcomes were prospectively collected from patients treated from April 2013 to April 2015. Patients were treated with PBS or intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) via volumetric arc therapy after transoral robotic surgery. Validated QOL questionnaires were collected before RT, and 3, 6, and 12 months post RT. Results: Sixty-four patients were treated with adjuvant RT after transoral robotic surgery, 33 (52%) with volumetric arc therapy, and 31 (48%) with PBS. Both groups were similar in terms of age, site, stage, and dose delivered. Patients receiving PBS had significantly less dose to many normal structures than those receiving IMRT. These dosimetric advantages with PBS were reflected in higher scores in head and neck specific, as well as general, QOL measures. Most notable was significantly less xerostomia with PBS, on multiple patient-reported outcomes at multiple timepoints (6 and 12 months). Conclusion: Pencil beam scanning, when compared to IMRT, confers a significant dosimetric advantage to many normal organs at risk, with a corresponding benefit in multiple patient-reported QOL parameters in patients receiving adjuvant RT for oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Particle Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • intensity-modulated radiation therapy
  • oropharyngeal cancer
  • proton therapy
  • quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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