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Radiother Oncol. 2007 Jul;84(1):5-10. Epub 2007 May 9.

Tumor progression in waiting time for radiotherapy in head and neck cancer.

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Department of Experimental Clinical Oncology, Aarhus University Hospital, Nørrebrogade 44, Building 5, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.



Waiting-time prior to radiotherapy is a well-known problem. This study aims to determine the impact of time on tumor growth in a patient population with squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).


In a consecutive cohort, all patients with both a diagnostic scan and a treatment-planning scan were identified. In total 648 patients were seen, and 414 treated with primary radiotherapy. Ninety-five had two scans and 61 sets were eligible for comparison. Endpoints were change in tumor volume, tumor volume doubling time (TVD) and disease progression measured by TNM-classification and RECIST criteria.


Median interval between eligible scans was 28 (5-95) days. Thirty-eight (62%) had measurable increase in tumor volume, median 46% (6-495%). For all patients TVD was median 99 days, but for the half of patients with fastest growing tumors TVD was 30 days (15-41). Tumor volume increase was significantly correlated to time and histological differentiation. Twelve (20%) developed new lymph-node metastasis and 10 (16%) progressed in TNM-classification. Evaluated by RECIST criteria 18 (30%) patients had progressive disease.


This study shows a negative impact of waiting time in patients with SCCHN. Within an average time of 4 weeks the majority of the patients developed significant signs of tumor progression. It was not possible to define a threshold for acceptable time intervals in order to avoid volume changes, or to define a subgroup that has no negative impact of delay.

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