High-dosage perioperative brachytherapy efficacious in treating head, neck tumors

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High-dosage perioperative brachytherapy obtains excellent results in the treatment of head and neck tumors, at the same time as reducing the period of radiation, according to research published in this month's issue of Brachytherapy.

The researchers applied the radiotherapy technique to 40 patients between 2000 and 2006. The authors described the greatest number of patients treated with high-dosage brachytherapy for head and neck tumors in medical literature. According to results, after a seven-year follow-up, the illness was controlled in 86 percent of the cases and the rate of survival was 52 percent.

The investigators, who included a multidisciplinary team of seven specialists from the radiotherapy department, the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery and the ear, nose and throat department at the University of Navarra Hospital in Pamplona, Spain, focused on the treatment of tumors in the oral cavity, those affecting the tongue and the floor of the mouth, and those in the oropharyngeal region, such as tumous of the tonsils.

The research analyzed the application of brachytherapy as complementary post-surgery treatment, explained Rafael Martínez-Monge, MD, director of the radiotherapy department. Some cases of head and neck tumors require the application of radiotherapy after the surgical operation. Using this technique, they have managed to intensify the radiation dosage with the goal of reducing relapse rates.

Brachytherapy enables the administration of doses that would not be easily achieved using other techniques, due to toxic effects, Martínez-Monge noted.

The great advantage, pointed out Martínez-Monge, is the reduction of total time. While conventional radiotherapy treatment lasted seven weeks, administering part of the radiation through brachytherapy can take two weeks less.

The technique also manages to reduce the time of radiation compared to treatment with low dosage brachytherapy, according to the authors. Now, the patient is only radioactive during the actual administration of the treatment; as such, the rest of the time can be spent in a conventional room, they wrote.

For the administration of this technique it is necessary to prepare the affected region during the surgical operation. On extirpating the tumor, the surgeon covers the surgery zone with a series of plastic tubes which are subsequently filled with radioactive material, the aim being to effect a highly selective and precise radiation, the authors wrote.