Can Radiation Therapy Quality Assurance Improve Nasopharyngeal Cancer Outcomes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Reporting the First Phase of a Prospective International Atomic Energy Agency Study

June Corry, Wai Tong Ng, Alisha Moore, Horace C.W. Choi, Quynh Le, Sofee Holmes, Arie Munandar, Shengzi Wang, Angela Camacho, Jiraporn Setakornnukul, Chuleeporn Jiarpinitnun, P. N. Hiep, Sarbani Ghosh Laskar, Noureddine Benjaafar, Mohammad Faheem, Feng Jin, Chiraz Nasr Ben Ammar, Rubina Ali, Kada Boualga, Sherif AbdelwahabKiattisa Sommat, Yungan Tao, Brian O'Sullivan, Nancy Lee, Eduardo Zubizaretta, Ben Prajogi, Kirsten Hopkins, Eduardo Rosenblatt, Anne W.M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Most new nasopharyngeal cancer cases occur in low-income and middle-income countries, and these patients experience poorer overall survival than that of new nasopharyngeal cancer cases in high-income countries. The goal of this research project is to determine whether the introduction of a radiation therapy quality assurance program can ultimately improve outcomes for nasopharyngeal cancer patients in lower-income and middle-income countries. This study reports the results of the first phase of the International Atomic Energy Agency Coordinated Research Project (325-E3-TM-47712). Methods and Materials: This prospective study has 2 phases. Phase 1 is a survey of radiation therapy resources, patient characteristics and treatment, and results of radiation therapy quality assurance performed by the expert panel. An educational workshop reviewing phase 1 results for each center was completed before accrual of patients for phase 2. The ultimate aim of the study is to compare the first and second cohort of patients to see if quality assurance can result in fewer major protocol deviations and a 15% improvement in patients’ 3-year progression-free survival. Results: Of 14 participating centers, 13 (93%) had computed tomography simulators and linear accelerators (LINAC) with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) capacity, median 3 LINAC (range, 1-13), and median 10 radiation oncologists (range, 5-51). The annual number of nasopharyngeal cancer cases irradiated was median 54 (range, 10-627). Five of 14 centers (36%) had no local radiation therapy quality assurance. For the current phase 1 study, 134 patients were evaluated, 82.1% had MRI staging, 99.3% had metastatic workup, 65.6% undifferentiated histology, 51% stage 3 and 49% stage 4. Radiation therapy quality assurance revealed 81 (60.4%) of 134 patients had major protocol violations in gross tumor volume and high dose planning target volume contours and/or dosimetry, 28.4% patients had borderline plans, 15 (11.2%) acceptable, and only 6 (4.2%) had inevitable compromise due to tumor extent. Conclusions: This is the first International Atomic Energy Agency study to address the fundamental issue of treatment quality rather than altered treatment regimens. The high rate of unacceptable radiation therapy plans is a major concern, and we hope phase 2 will show a significant reduction and improved patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1236
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Volume111
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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