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Am J Otolaryngol. 2013 Nov-Dec;34(6):631-5. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2013.07.010. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Feasibility and toxicity of concurrent chemoradiation for elderly patients with head and neck cancer.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of California Davis, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Sacramento, CA, USA. Electronic address:



Although concurrent chemoradiation is increasingly used for patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer, many elderly patients receive radiation alone due to toxicity concerns. We evaluate acute and late toxicity among patients age ≥ 65 who received concurrent chemoradiation for head and neck cancer.


Retrospective review.


Tertiary care center.


Between 6/2003 and 8/2011, 40 consecutive patients age ≥ 65 underwent combined chemoradiation for head and neck cancer. Ten patients were treated in the postoperative setting and 30 underwent definitive chemoradiation. Twenty-eight patients received concurrent platinum-based chemotherapy and 12 received concurrent weekly paclitaxel. Treatment plans were designed to provide a dose of 66-72 Gy at 2-2.12 Gy/fraction to >95% of the gross tumor volume in the definitive setting or for positive margins and 60-66 Gy at 2 Gy/fraction post-operatively. Median follow-up was 23.2 months (range: 0-94.4 months).


Acute skin and mucosal toxicity, unplanned treatment interruptions, and chronic treatment related toxicity including gastrostomy tube dependence as graded by the CTCAE v3.0.


Eight patients (20%) required a radiation treatment break of ≥ 3 days. Thirteen (33%) required unplanned hospitalization during or immediately following treatment. No grade 4+ skin or mucosal toxicity was noted. Five patients remained PEG tube dependent at >1 year. One patient developed non-healing mandibular osteoradionecrosis >3 years following chemoradiation. The 2-year Kaplan-Meier estimate of overall survival was 55%.


Higher-than-expected rates of in-patient hospitalization with significant acute toxicity were noted in this cohort with a correspondingly high rate of radiation treatment breaks. Late toxicity rates were similar to those observed in historical controls with younger patients. Careful patient selection criteria should be employed for elderly patients considering concurrent chemoradiation for head and neck cancer.

© 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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