Postoperative, Single-Fraction Radiation Therapy in Merkel Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck

Cook MM, Schaub SK, Goff PH, Fu A, Park SY, Hippe DS, Liao JJ, Apisarnthanarax S, Bhatia S, Tseng YD, Nghiem PT, Parvathaneni U

Adv Radiat Oncol. 2020 Jul 21 doi: 10.1016/j.adro.2020.07.003

PMID: 32838069

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Purpose: Conventionally fractionated, postoperative radiation therapy (cPORT; 50 Gy in 25 fractions) is considered for patients with Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) to improve locoregional control. However, cPORT is associated with acute toxicity, especially in the head and neck (H&N) region, and requires daily treatments over several weeks. We previously reported high rates of durable local control with minimal toxicity using 8-Gy single-fraction radiation therapy (SFRT) in the metastatic setting. We report early results on a cohort of patients with localized H&N MCC who received postoperative SFRT if a cPORT regimen was not feasible.

Methods and materials: Twelve patients with localized MCC of the H&N (clinical/pathologic stages I-II) and no prior radiation therapy to the region were identified from an institutional review board-approved prospective registry who underwent surgical resection followed by postoperative SFRT. Time to event was calculated starting from the date of resection before SFRT. The cumulative incidence of in-field locoregional recurrences and out-of-field recurrences was estimated with death as a competing risk.

Results: Twelve patients with H&N MCC were identified with clinical/pathologic stages I-II H&N MCC. Median age at diagnosis was 81 years (range, 58-96 years); 25% had immunosuppression. At a median follow-up of 19 months (range, 8-34), there were no in-field locoregional recurrences. A single out-of-field regional recurrence was observed, which was successfully salvaged. There were no MCC-specific deaths. No radiation-associated toxicities greater than grade 1 (Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events v5) were observed.

Conclusions: Preliminary data suggest that SFRT could offer a potential alternative to cPORT to treat the primary site for localized H&N MCC, particularly in elderly or frail patients, with promising in-field local control and minimal toxicity. Further data with validation in larger cohorts are needed to confirm the sustained safety and efficacy of postoperative SFRT.

Adv Radiat Oncol. 2020 Jul 21 doi: 10.1016/j.adro.2020.07.003