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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1993 Sep 1;27(1):117-23.

Accelerated hyperfractionated hepatic irradiation in the management of patients with liver metastases: results of the RTOG dose escalating protocol.

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  • 1Radiological Associates of Sacramento Medical Group, Radiation Oncology Center, CA 95819.



This study was prepared to address two objectives: (a) to determine whether progressively higher total doses of hepatic irradiation can prolong survival in a selected population of patients with liver metastases; (b) to refine existing concepts of liver tolerance for fractionated external radiation employing a fraction size which might be appropriate in clinical protocols evaluating elective or adjuvant radiation of the liver.


One hundred seventy-three analyzable patients with computed tomography measurable liver metastases from primary cancers of the gastrointestinal tract were entered on a dose escalating protocol of twice daily hepatic irradiation employing fractions of 1.5 Gy separated by 4 hr or longer. Sequential groups of patients received 27 Gy, 30 Gy, and 33 Gy to the entire liver and were monitored for acute and late toxicities, survival, and cause of death. Dose escalation was implemented following survival of 10 patients at each dose level for a period of 6 months or longer without clinical or biochemical evidence of radiation hepatitis.


The use of progressively larger total doses of radiation did not prolong median survival or decrease the frequency with which liver metastases were the cause of death. None of 122 patients entered at the 27 Gy and 30 Gy dose levels revealed clinical or biochemical evidence of radiation induced liver injury. Five of 51 patients entered at the 33 Gy level revealed clinical or biochemical evidence of late liver injury with an actuarial risk of severe (Grade 3) radiation hepatitis of 10.0% (+/- 7.3% S.E.) at 6 months, resulting in closure of the study to patient entry.


The study design could not credibly establish a safe dose for hepatic irradiation, however, it did succeed in determining that 33 Gy in fractions of 1.5 Gy is unsafe, carrying a substantial risk of delayed radiation injury. The absence of apparent late liver injury at the 27 Gy and 30 Gy dose levels suggests that a prior clinical trial of adjuvant hepatic irradiation in patients with resected colon cancer may have employed an insufficient radiation dose (21 Gy) to fully test the question.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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