Premature discontinuation of curative radiation therapy: Insights from head and neck irradiation

Stanislav Lazarev, Vishal Gupta, Zahra Ghiassi-Nejad, Brett Miles, Bethann Scarborough, Krzysztof J. Misiukiewicz, Batya Reckson, Ren Dih Sheu, Richard L. Bakst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose Factors related to premature discontinuation of curative radiation therapy (PDCRT) are understudied. This study aimed to examine causes and clinical outcomes of PDCRT at our institution by investigating the most common anatomical site associated with PDCRT. Methods and materials Among the 161 patients with PDCRT of various anatomic sites at our institution between 2010 and 2017, 36% received radiation to the head and neck region. Pertinent demographic, clinical, and treatment-related data on these 58 patients were collected. Survival was examined using the life-table method and log-rank test. Results The majority of patients were male (81%), white (67%), ≥60 years old (59%), living ≥10 miles away from the hospital (60%), single (57%), with Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score ≥1 (86%), experiencing significant pain issues (67%), and had treatment interruptions in radiation therapy (RT; 66%). The most common reasons for PDCRT were discontinuation against medical advice (33%), medical comorbidity (24%), and RT toxicity (17%). Of the comorbidities leading to PDCRT, 50% was acute cardiopulmonary issues and 43% was infection. The mean follow-up time was 15.9 months, and the 2-year overall survival and disease-specific survival rates were 61% and 78%, respectively. Patients with illicit substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score ≥2 had worse survival. A trend toward improved survival with total completed dose ≥50 Gy versus <50 Gy existed (74% versus 44%, respectively; P =.07). Conclusions In this largest-to-date, modern analysis of PDCRT, the most common cause of discontinuation was discontinuation against medical advice, which underscores the importance of patient education, optimization of RT symptoms, involvement of social work, and integration of other supportive services early in treatment. Survival remains suboptimal after PDCRT for H&N tumors, with a 2-year overall survival rate of 61%. Completing >50 Gy appears to confer a relative therapeutic benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Radiation Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


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