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Magnetic resonance imaging guided reirradiation of recurrent and second primary head and neck cancer.



To report a single-institutional experience using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guided radiation therapy for the reirradiation of recurrent and second cancers of the head and neck.

Methods and materials

Between October 2014 and August 2016, 13 consecutive patients with recurrent or new primary cancers of the head and neck that occurred in a previously irradiated field were prospectively enrolled in an institutional registry trial to investigate the feasibility and efficacy of MRI guided radiation therapy using a 0.35-T MRI scanner with a cobalt-60 radiation therapy source called the ViewRay system (ViewRay Inc., Cleveland, OH). Eligibility criteria included biopsy-proven evidence of recurrent or new primary squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, measurable disease, and previous radiation to >60 Gy. MRI guided reirradiation was delivered either using intensity modulated radiation therapy with conventional fractionation to a median dose of 66 Gy or stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) using 7 to 8 Gy fractions on nonconsecutive days to a median dose of 40 Gy. Two patients (17%) received concurrent chemotherapy.


The 1- and 2-year estimates of in-field control were 72% and 72%, respectively. A total of 227 daily MRI scans were obtained to guide reirradiation. The 2-year estimates of overall survival and progression-free survival were 53% and 59%, respectively. There were no treatment-related fatalities or hospitalizations. Complications included skin desquamation, odynophagia, otitis externa, keratitis and/or conjunctivitis, and 1 case of aspiration pneumonia.


Our preliminary findings show that reirradiation with MRI guided radiation therapy results in effective disease control with relatively low morbidity for patients with recurrent and second primary cancers of the head and neck. The superior soft tissue resolution of the MRI scans that were used for planning and delivery has the potential to improve the therapeutic ratio.

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