Systematic review of intraoperative radiation therapy for head and neck cancer

12 Dec 2022
Cesar Vincent L Villafuerte, Aveline Marie D Ylanan, Harroun Valdimir T Wong, Johanna Patricia A Cañal, Edilberto Joaquin V Fragante Jr

Multidisciplinary treatments with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the cornerstones in the management of locally advanced head and neck malignancies. In most cases, radiation is delivered via external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), on the other hand, is the delivery of precise doses of radiation to selected target volumes within the exposed surgical field while at the operating room. Most studies on its use on head and neck cancers are limited to single-institutional retrospective case series. We performed a systematic review to consolidate the existing literature on IORT for head and neck malignancies. Fifty-two studies representing a mixed population of 2,389 patients were included in this review. IORT via electrons (intraoperative electron radiation therapy), brachytherapy (intraoperative high dose-rate brachytherapy) or photons was administered in numerous settings, but most commonly as part of a reirradiation regimen following salvage surgery for recurrent tumours. Often, additional EBRT was also planned postoperatively. This review illustrates that IORT is a promising treatment modality in head and neck cancer. Multiple single-institutional studies spanning several decades have demonstrated benefit in terms of local control with reasonable toxicity. However, randomised trials comparing it with current standards of care are still needed.

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