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End of treatment cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is predictive of radiation response and overall survival in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma



Image guidance in radiation oncology has resulted in significant improvements in the accuracy and precision of radiation therapy (RT). Recently, the resolution and quality of cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) for image guidance has increased so that tumor masses and lymph nodes are readily detectable and measurable. During treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), on-board CBCT setup imaging is routinely obtained; however, this CBCT imaging data is not utilized to predict patient outcomes. Here, we analyzed whether changes in CBCT measurements obtained during a course of radiation therapy correlate with responses on routine 3-month follow-up diagnostic imaging and overall survival (OS).


Patients with oropharyngeal primary tumors who received radiation therapy between 2015 and 2018 were included. Anatomical measurements were collected of largest nodal conglomerate (LNC) at CT simulation, end of radiation treatment (EOT CBCT), and routine 3-month post-RT imaging. At each timepoint anteroposterior (AP), mediolateral (ML) and craniocaudal (CC) measurements were obtained and used to create a 2-dimensional (2D) maximum.


CBCT data from 64 node positive patients were analyzed. The largest nodal 2D maximum and CC measurements on EOT CBCT showed a statistically significant correlation with complete response on 3-month post-RT imaging (r = 0.313, p = 0.02 and r = 0.318, p = 0.02, respectively). Furthermore, patients who experienced a 30% or greater reduction in the CC dimension had improved OS (Binary Chi-Square HR 4.85, p = 0.028).


Decreased size of pathologic lymph nodes measured using CBCT setup imaging during a radiation course correlates with long term therapeutic response and overall survival of HNSCC patients. These results indicate that CBCT setup imaging may have utility as an early predictor of treatment response in oropharyngeal HNSCC.

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