One significant advantage of proton therapy is its ability to improve normal tissue sparing and toxicity mitigation, which is relevant in the treatment of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). Here, we report our institutional experience and dosimetric results with adjuvant proton radiation therapy (PRT) versus intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)-associated OPSCC.

Materials and Methods

This was a retrospective, single institutional study of all patients treated with adjuvant PRT for HPV-associated OPSCC from 2015 to 2019. Each patient had a treatment-approved equivalent IMRT plan to serve as a reference. Endpoints included dosimetric outcomes to the organs at risk (OARs), local regional control (LRC), progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS). Descriptive statistics, a 2-tailed paired t test for dosimetric comparisons, and the Kaplan-Meier method for disease outcomes were used.


Fifty-three patients were identified. Doses delivered to OARs compared favorably for PRT versus IMRT, particularly for the pharyngeal constrictors, esophagus, larynx, oral cavity, and submandibular and parotid glands. The achieved normal tissue sparing did not negatively impact disease outcomes, with 2-year LRC, PFS, and OS of 97.0%, 90.3%, and 97.5%, respectively.


Our study suggests that meaningful normal tissue sparing in the postoperative setting is achievable with PRT, without impacting disease outcomes.

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