Treatment Tolerance and Toxicity in Elderly Oropharyngeal Cancer Patients and Implication on Outcomes

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys


Purpose/Objective(s): To investigate the tolerance level and toxicity for standard of care treatment for oropharyngeal cancer (OP) in elderly patients and their impact on outcomes. Materials/Methods: Using our in-house head and neck cancer database, we looked for non-metastatic OP cases that received definitive treatment between 1/2009-6/2020. All patients received either definitive radiation therapy (RT) +/- concomitant systemic therapy (ST), or surgery followed by adjuvant RT or RT-ST. For the elderly (age at diagnosis ≥65 years) and young (<65 years) patients, we compared treatment package time (TPT) (time from surgery to RT conclusion) for adjuvant RT, total RT duration and unplanned RT interruptions. ST details and dose/protocol modifications were also compared. We evaluated worst grade of pain and mucositis, hospitalization for non-hydration causes and febrile neutropenia (FN) during RT. Feeding tube (FT) use and weight loss were compared. The independent effect of these indicators on locoregional (LRFS), distant (DRFS) recurrence free and overall (OS) survival was assessed using multivariate analyses (MVA). Results: A cohort of 326 patients was included: 36% elderly (n = 118) and 64% young (n = 208), with no differences in AJCC stage distribution (8th), treatment received and HPV status (HPV+ve: 73% vs 74.6%; p = 0.86). In 23.6 % who received adjuvant RT, median TPT was 86 (range 72-128) and 81 (65-137) days for elderly vs young (p = 0.27); whereas in the definitive RT cases 76.4%, total RT duration was 49 days for both age groups. Overall, prescribed RT course was not completed in 4% and unplanned RT interruptions occurred in 22.8% and both were non-significant between age groups. Among the 261 patients that received ST, elderly utilized more cetuximab (26 vs 12%; p = 0.007). For those who received cisplatin, 20% of elderly had cumulative dose <200 mg/m2 compared to 6% among the younger age group (p = 0.006); and cisplatin was changed to carboplatin or cetuximab in 18% vs 8% (p = 0.019). Delayed/cancelled cycles and dose reductions were similar. There were more hospitalizations (47% vs 27%; p<0.001) and a trend for more FN (9% vs 3%; p = 0.09) with older age, while worst pain and mucositis was similar. FTs were used more in elderly patients (64% vs 50%; p = 0.02), for a median of 97 vs 64 days (p = 0.31); of which 19.5% vs 11% (p = 0.28) were inserted before RT start. However, % weight loss was non-significant. On MVA, longer RT duration, FT use and hospitalizations predicted worse LRFS and DRFS; and they were prognostic for OS in addition to TPT >90 days (p<0.05 for all). Nevertheless, elderly vs young had non-significant 3-year LRFS (91% vs 90% and 67% vs 69%), DRFS (86% vs 90% and 79% vs 81%) & OS (85% vs 81% and 39% vs 52%) for HPV+ve and HPV-ve respectively (p>0.05). Conclusion: Elderly patients with OP need more multi-disciplinary supportive care when receiving RT and concurrent ST. However, survival outcomes are equivalent to younger patients. Ongoing studies should enroll more elderly candidates and stratify endpoints with age.





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