Although previous studies have documented correlations between pre-treatment or post-treatment primary tumour volumes and local outcome following definitive concomitant chemoradiotherapy (CCRT) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), no study has included and compared tumour volumes during CCRT.
We reviewed the MRIs of 69 HNSCC patients treated with a 6 weeks course of CCRT and who underwent successful MRI pre-treatment (n = 69), 2 weeks intra-treatment (n = 48) and 6 weeks post-treatment (n = 61). Primary tumour volumes on MRI at the three time points were calculated and compared for their predictive value for primary site outcome. Volume thresholds optimised to predict failure with the highest accuracy and positive predictive value (PPV) were calculated. The mean pre-treatment volume was 24.6 cm3 (range, 1.1–187.9 cm3) and the mean follow-up interval was 41 months (range, 12–100 months). 23 primary tumours failed treatment (33%). Volumes before, during and after CCRT were positively associated with local failure (p = 0.015, p = 0.009, p<0.0001). Volume reductions during and after CCRT were negatively associated with local failure (p = 0.021, p = 0.001). Pre-treatment and intra-treatment volume thresholds achieved the highest accuracy and produced intermediate PPVs (51–64%) for predicting local failure. Optimised intra-treatment thresholds did not identify any more treatment failures than the pre-treatment thresholds. By comparison, a 6 weeks post-treatment volume reduction (<35%) achieved 100% PPV for failure, albeit with 26% sensitivity.
In conclusion, primary tumour volumetry performed early in CCRT provides minimal additional information compared with pre-treatment volumetry, with respect to predicting post-treatment local failures. Therefore, volumetry during CCRT is unlikely to be useful for guiding individual response-based therapeutic modifications.