Bilateral Regional Nodal Irradiation Using Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy: Dosimetric Analysis and Feasibility

Michael B. Bernstein, Katherine Walker, Erin Gillespie, Boris Mueller, John Cuaron, Amy Xu, Beryl McCormick, Atif Khan, Oren Cahlon, Simon Powell, Lior Z. Braunstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Dosimetric and technical challenges often limit radiation therapy (RT) target coverage for patients with breast cancer who require bilateral breast/chest wall and regional nodal irradiation (RNI). We evaluated the feasibility of using volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) to administer bilateral comprehensive RNI including the internal mammary nodes. Methods and Materials: We analyzed all patients treated at our institution with bilateral RNI using VMAT between 2017 and 2020. Medical records were reviewed to ascertain clinicopathologic features, radiotherapeutic parameters, and treatment-related adverse events. Results: The cohort was comprised of 12 patients who underwent VMAT for bilateral RNI, with a median follow-up time of 14.5 months. Median volume of the lung receiving 5 Gy (V5) for the bilateral lungs was 96.1% (range, 84.5%-99.8%), and median volume of the lung receiving 20 Gy for each lung was 27.5% (range, 14.9%-38.1%). The cardiac mean dose was a median of 699 cGy (range, 527-1117 cGy). Five patients (41%) developed grade 1 cough/dyspnea, with one patient developing grade 3 dyspnea. Of note, 3 of these patients (60%) were current or former smokers. No patient received glucocorticoid therapy or required respiratory intervention, and none developed longer-term pulmonary complaints. A decline in ejection fraction occurred in one patient with a preexisting cardiac condition who also received anthracycline-based chemotherapy and trastuzumab. Only one patient experienced a locoregional recurrence with synchronous distant progression, and subsequently succumbed to the disease. No secondary cancers have been noted to date. Conclusions: VMAT appears to be a feasible and tolerable RT modality for patients with breast cancer who require bilateral comprehensive adjuvant RT with RNI to obtain excellent target coverage. No patients required medical intervention for pulmonary complaints despite a median bilateral V5 approaching 100%, providing further evidence that V5 is not predictive for complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-194
Number of pages6
JournalPractical Radiation Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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