Purpose

Proton therapy is an emerging therapy for several malignancies owing to its favorable therapeutic ratio. There are very limited data on the use of proton therapy in the management of thyroid carcinoma. Our objective was to review the safety, feasibility, and outcomes of proton therapy for patients with thyroid cancer treated to the head and neck.

Methods

From our institution's proton database from 2012 to 2021, we identified 22 patients with thyroid cancer treated with proton beam therapy. We evaluated outcomes and toxicities.

Results

Median follow-up was 26 months. Of the 22 patients, 50% were female. The mean age was 65 years. Three patients had anaplastic cancer; 13, papillary carcinoma; 2, follicular carcinoma; and 2, poorly differentiated carcinoma. Forty-six percent had T4 disease. Primary targets were the central neck compartment, level VI, and upper mediastinum. Radiation dose was 60 GyRBE adjuvantly, and 70 GyRBE for gross disease (range, 6000-7600 GyRBE). Eight patients underwent upfront adjuvant radiation, and 3 received definitive radiation for unresectable disease upfront. Eleven patients received either salvage or palliative radiation. Fifty-nine percent of patients had extrathyroidal extension, and 64% of patients had gross disease in the neck before treatment. Fifty percent of patients had metastatic disease before treatment. Sixteen patients received concurrent chemotherapy, 63% of these patients received doxorubicin. For all patients, 1-year local regional recurrence (LRR) was 0%, and overall survival (OS) was 90%. Acute grade 3+ toxicities occurred in 27% of patients, the most frequent being dermatitis (27%). Three patients required a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube after radiation therapy (RT), 2 owing to progression. There were no grade 4+ toxicities.

Conclusions

Proton therapy for thyroid cancer appears feasible and effective with minimal toxicities. Prospective studies comparing proton therapy with intensity-modulated RT, to evaluate the clinical efficacy of using proton therapy to reduce toxicities in patients undergoing radiation for thyroid cancer, are warranted.

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