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Acta Oncol. 2009;48(4):562-70. doi: 10.1080/02841860902740899.

Hypofractionated radiotherapy denoted as the "Christie scheme": an effective means of palliating patients with head and neck cancers not suitable for curative treatment.

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Erasmus Medical Center-Daniel den Hoed Cancer Center, Department of Radiation Oncology, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



A prospective study of the efficacy and toxicity profile of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) without curative treatment options treated consistently with hypofractionated radiotherapy schedule.


Between 1995 and 2006, 158 patients with HNSCC, unsuitable for curative treatment, were treated with a hypofractionated scheme of radiotherapy consisting of 16 fractions of 3.125 Gy. Endpoints of the study were response rates, loco-regional control, disease-free survival, overall survival, acute and late toxicity, and quality of life (QoL).


Seventy four percent of patients were male, 31% had oropharyngeal cancer and 81% stage IV disease. With 45% complete response and 28% partial response an overall response rate of 73% was achieved, 6% had stable disease, and 21% progressed during or directly after completion of treatment. Median survival time was 17 months and 62 patients (40%) survived > or =1 year after RT. The actuarial rates of loco-regional control, disease-free survival and overall survival were 62%, 32% and 40% at 1-year, respectively and 32%, 14% and 17% at 3-years, respectively. Acute grade > or =3 skin and mucosal toxicities were observed in 45% and 65% of patients, respectively. Severe late toxicity was reported in 4.5% of patients. Of patients surviving > or =1 year after RT, retrospective chart review showed that 50% gained weight, pain improved in 77%, performance status in 47% and only 29% of them was still feeding-tube dependent.


Our hypofractionated radiotherapy scheme is an effective, well-tolerated and safe palliative schedule in HNSCC who are unsuitable for curative treatment options. Using 3.125 Gy per fraction (Christie scheme), excellent palliation was achieved resulting in acceptable response rates, excellent symptom control, acceptable toxicity profile, and good QoL of patients surviving > or =1 year after completion of treatment.

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