Radiation-induced lymphopenia (RIL) is associated with worse survival in patients with solid tumors, as well as lower response rates to checkpoint inhibitors. While single-fraction total-body irradiation is known to result in exponential decreases in the absolute lymphocyte count (ALC), the kinetics of lymphocyte loss after focal fractionated exposures have not previously been characterized. In the current study, lymphocyte loss kinetics was analyzed among patients undergoing focal fractionated radiotherapy for clinical indications. This registry-based study included 419 patients who received either total-body irradiation (TBI; n = 30), stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT; n = 73) or conventionally fractionated chemoradiation therapy (CFRT; n = 316). For each patient, serial ALCs were plotted against radiotherapy fraction number. The initial three weeks of treatment for CFRT patients and the entirety of treatment for SBRT and TBI patients were fit to exponential decay in the form ALC(x) = ae–bx, where ALC(x) is the ALC after x fractions. From those fits, fractional lymphocyte loss (FLL) was calculated as FLL = (1 – e–b) * 100, and multivariable regression was performed to identify significant correlates of FLL. Median linearized R2 when fitting the initial fractions was 0.98, 0.93 and 0.97 for patients receiving TBI, SBRT and CFRT, respectively. In CFRT patients, apparent ALC loss rate slowed after week 3. Fitting ALC loss over the entire CFRT course therefore required the addition of a constant term, “c”. For TBI and SBRT patients, treatment ended during the pure exponential decay phase. Initial FLL varied significantly with treatment technique. Mean FLL was 35.5%, 24.3% and 10.77% for patients receiving TBI, SBRT and CFRT, respectively (P < 0.001). Significant correlates of FLL varied by site and included field size, dose per fraction, mean spleen dose, chemotherapy backbone and age. Finally, total percentage ALC loss during radiotherapy was highly correlated with FLL (P < 0.001). Lymphocyte depletion kinetics during the initial phase of fractionated radiotherapy are characterized by pure exponential decay. Initial FLL is strongly correlated with radiotherapy planning parameters and total percentage ALC loss. The two groups with the highest FLL received no concurrent chemotherapy, suggesting that ALC loss can be a consequence of radiotherapy alone. This work may assist in selecting patients for adaptive radiotherapy approaches to mitigate RIL risk.
Comprehensive Analysis of the Kinetics of Radiation-Induced Lymphocyte Loss in Patients Treated with External Beam Radiation Therapy
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Susannah G. Ellsworth, Anirudh Yalamanchali, Hong Zhang, Stuart A. Grossman, Robert Hobbs, Jian-Yue Jin; Comprehensive Analysis of the Kinetics of Radiation-Induced Lymphocyte Loss in Patients Treated with External Beam Radiation Therapy. Radiat Res 1 January 2020; 193 (1): 73–81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1667/RR15367.1
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