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Indian J Surg Oncol. 2010 Apr;1(2):166-85. doi: 10.1007/s13193-010-0030-x. Epub 2010 Nov 21.

IMRT and IGRT in head and neck cancer: Have we delivered what we promised?

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, 410 210 India.


Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a revolutionary new paradigm that aims at improving the therapeutic ratio by increasing the dosegradient between target tissues and surrounding normal structures thereby offering probability of better loco-regional control with decreased risk of complications. IMRT is relatively intolerant to set-up uncertainties, warranting periodic image-guidance, making Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) a natural corollary to IMRT. There are several challenges associated with the planning, delivery, and quality assurance of the IMRT and IGRT processes that must be addressed to realize the full potential of such exciting and promising technology. Given the complexities involved, it is quite intuitive to understand that IMRT and IGRT are resource-intensive, demanding increased labor, rigour, and expenses too. Other disadvantages associated with high-precision techniques include potentially increased risk of marginal failures, decreased dose homogeneity, and an increase in total body dose with increased risk of secondary carcinogenesis. The aim of this review is to define the role of IMRT and IGRT in contemporary head and neck oncologic practice through a critical appraisal of pertinent literature. Despite relatively short follow-up and limited clinical outcomes data, the weight of evidence suggests that loco-regional control is not inferior (either comparable or even better) and toxicity lesser with IMRT resulting in potentially improved quality-of-life, prompting the widespread adoption of such technology in community practice. Ongoing clinical trials in head and neck IMRT are currently addressing issues to optimize the IMRT process, adopting functional imaging for dose-painting, and incorporating adaptive re-planning strategies to further improve outcomes.


IGRT; IMRT; head-neck cancer; outcomes

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