Proton beam re-irradiation for gastrointestinal malignancies: a systematic review

Andrew R. Barsky, Vishruth K. Reddy, John P. Plastaras, Edgar Ben-Josef, James M. Metz, Andrzej P. Wojcieszynski


Background: Radiotherapy (RT) is part of the standard of care management of most gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. Even with advanced RT, systemic therapy, and surgical techniques, locoregional recurrences or second primary cancers can still occur within previously irradiated fields, which can present challenges in delivering effective and safe treatment. Options for reirradiation are often limited, but given the favorable dosimetric aspects of proton-beam RT, it may provide an effective and safe re-irradiation option for patients with recurrent or second primary GI cancers.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review as per the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement protocol, assessing for reports of proton-beam reirradiation for recurrent or second primary GI cancers, primarily via PubMed. From the initial 373 articles identified, 7 articles were ultimately included in the analysis.
Results: The 7 included studies reported on proton-beam re-irradiation for the following disease sites: esophageal (n=2), pancreas (n=1), liver (n=2), rectal (n=1), and anal (n=1). Study sizes varied from as few as 1 to as many as 83 patients. Across studies, in patients who presented with tumor-related symptoms, palliation (stability/improvement) was achieved in 80–100% of the cases. Local control rates, with variable follow-up, ranged from 36–100%. All median overall survival values, when reported, were greater than 1 year. Across both liver studies, there were no cases of radiation-induced liver disease (RILD) from proton-beam re-irradiation. Across all studies, there were 2 acute (esophagopleural fistula in esophageal cancer, small bowel perforation in pancreatic cancer) and 1 late (esophageal ulcer in esophageal cancer) grade 5 toxicities, all favored to be due to progressive disease, rather than proton-beam re-irradiation. Two studies (1 esophageal, 1 rectal) generated comparison photon plans. One found that proton therapy reduced mean heart and lung doses, spinal cord dose, and lung V5Gy as compared to photon treatment, while resulting in higher lung V20Gy and V30Gy. The other found that protons decreased bowel V10Gy, V20Gy, and the dose to 200 and 150 cc of bowel, as compared to photons.
Conclusions: Based upon the published experiences, proton-beam re-irradiation for recurrent or second primary GI cancers appears effective for palliation, with good disease-control, limited toxicity, favorable dosimetry, and overall compares well with published non-proton-beam experiences. Given short follow-up, additional studies are warranted to determine if dosimetric advantages from proton therapy will translate into comparative toxicity benefits.