Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle

AACR 2019: Can the Timing of Radiotherapy Affect the Severity of Oral Mucositis?

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2019

A painful and debilitating complication of radiation therapy, oral mucositis occurs in most patients treated for head and neck cancer. Findings from a study presented at the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Atlanta (Abstract 4860/4) suggest that for these patients, administering radiation treatments in the morning rather than later in the day may significantly reduce the severity of oral mucositis.

“We found that the severity of oral mucositis increased as the time at which radiation treatments were administered got later, peaking at early afternoon,” stated senior author Anurag K. Singh, MD, of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York, in an institutional press release. “Our findings highlight a simple and easily implementable solution for reducing severe oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients, and one that may have significant clinical and quality-of-life benefits for patients.”

The study included 219 patients with head and neck cancer who received radiotherapy; they all completed a mucositis survey weekly during a 6- to 7-week course of therapy. The severity of mucositis was reported using a soreness quality score. The score, ranging from 0 (no soreness) to 4 (extreme soreness), assessed severity in the mouth and throat in the past 24 hours.

The researchers found that treatment time was significantly associated with the mucositis soreness quality score, with the lowest score observed in patients treated in the early morning (P = .025). The soreness quality score peaked for patients treated in the early afternoon and then decreased for those treated in late afternoon. A total of 43.2% of patients treated in the early morning developed severe oral mucositis (soreness quality score grade 3 or 4), compared with 69.2% of patients treated in early afternoon.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.


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