Fast neutron radiotherapy for soft tissue and cartilaginous sarcomas at high risk for local recurrence

David L. Schwartz, John Einck, Jennifer Bellon, George E. Laramore

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57 Scopus citations


Purpose: The practice policy at the University of Washington has been to employ fast neutron radiotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma lesions with prognostic features predictive for poor local control. These include gross residual disease/inoperable disease, recurrent disease, and contaminated surgical margins. Cartilaginous sarcomas have also been included in this high-risk group. This report updates and expands our previously described experience with this approach. Methods and Materials: Eighty-nine soft tissue sarcoma lesions in 72 patients were treated with neutron radiotherapy in our department between 1984 and 1996. Six patients, each with solitary lesions, were excluded from analysis due to lack of follow-up. Seventy-three percent were treated with fast neutron radiation alone, the rest with a combination of neutrons and photons. Median neutron dose was 18.3 nGy (range 4.8-22). Forty-two patients with solitary lesions were treated with curative intent. Thirty-one patients (including 7 previously treated with neutrons) with 41 lesions were treated with the goal of local palliation. Tumors were predominantly located in the extremity and torso. Thirty of 35 (85%) of curative group patients treated postoperatively had close or positive surgical margins. Thirty-four (82%) lesions treated for palliation were unresectable. Thirty-five patients (53%) were treated at the time of recurrence. Median tumor size at initial presentation was 8.0 cm (range 0.6-29), median treated gross disease size was 5.0 cm (range 1-22), and 46/69 evaluable lesions (67%) were judged to be of intermediate to high histologic grade. Fourteen patients (21%) had chondrosarcomas. Results: Median follow-up was 6 months (range 2-47) and 38 months (range 2-175) for the palliative and curative groups, respectively. Kaplan-Meier estimates were obtained for probability of local relapse-free survival (68%), distant disease-free survival (59%), cause-specific survival (68%), and overall survival (66%) at 4 years for the curatively treated group. For the palliatively treated group, estimated local relapse-free survival at 1 year was 62%. Log-rank analysis of the curative group revealed recurrent disease to be the only risk factor predictive for significantly worse local and distant disease-free survival. Intermediate-/high-grade histology was predictive for inferior overall survival. Effective clinical response was documented for 21/27 (78%) lesions treated palliatively. Ten patients (15%) experienced serious chronic radiation-related complications. All of these patients had clinical situations requiring delivery of high neutron doses and/or large radiotherapy fields. Conclusion: Fast neutron radiotherapy is locally effective for soft tissue and cartilaginous sarcomas having well-recognized high-risk features. Results in the palliative setting appear to be particularly encouraging, with neutrons frequently providing significant symptomatic response for gross disease, with minimal serious chronic sequelae. Fast neutron radiotherapy should be considered in patients at high risk for local recurrence in both the curative and palliative settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-456
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001


  • Local control
  • Neutrons
  • Palliation
  • Radiotherapy
  • Sarcoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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