Proton beam therapy can achieve lower vertebral bone marrow dose than photon beam therapy during chemoradiation therapy of esophageal cancer

Yin Zhang, Salma K. Jabbour, Andrew Zhang, Bo Liu, Ning J. Yue, Nrusingh C. Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Chemoradiation therapy plays an important role in both the neoadjuvant and definitive management of esophageal cancer (EC). Prior studies have suggested that advanced planning techniques can better spare organs at risk including the heart. Although multiple toxicities can result from esophageal radiotherapy, one less studied acute toxicity is that of myelosuppression, which can result, in part, from the combination of chemotherapy and incidental radiotherapy administration to the vertebral bodies (VBs), which abut the posterior aspect of the esophagus, especially in the lower thoracic esophagus. Traditionally, VB bone marrow doses are not accounted during EC radiation therapy planning. We sought to compare the doses to VBs between proton and photon radiation therapy as part of chemoradiation therapy for EC treatment. By reducing doses to the vertebrae, radiation therapy can decrease treatment-related myelosuppression, which can avoid delays or chemotherapy dose reductions in therapy, which likely affect long-term patient survival. Dose constraints are not routinely employed for bone marrow in radiation treatment planning. In our previous work, we identified thresholds to avoid grade ≥3 leukopenia, including VB V10Gy, VB V20Gy, and a mean VB dose (MVD) of 18.8 Gy. Herein we perform a retrospective dosimetric planning study comparing passive- or double-scattering proton beam therapy (PS-PBT), volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) (photon-based), and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) (photon-based) in 25 patients with locally advanced EC who were treated originally with photon RT at our institution between 2011 and 2016. The aforementioned dose constraints were included in the retrospective planning process for PS-PBT, VMAT, and IMRT to determine the feasibility of achieving these VB constraints while maintaining reasonable target coverage and planned, consistent constraints to other organs at risk including lungs, spinal cord, and stomach. PS-PBT plans were found to achieve lower doses for VB V10Gy, V20Gy, and MVD than VMAT and static IMRT plans while achieving the same target coverage. PS-PBT resulted in lower organs at risk dosimetric parameters than the photon plans, with p < 0.0001. Student's paired t-test p-values in favor of proton therapy's ability to spare organs were as follows: for PS-PBT vs VMAT and PS-PBT vs IMRT in mean doses for lung, liver, and VB and VB V10Gy and VB V20Gy were all <0.001 (Bonferroni corrected α=0.017). One-way ANOVA found that VB doses (VB V10Gy, VB V20Gy, and MVD) were significantly lower for proton therapy (p < 0.006) among the 3 planning techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Dosimetry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


  • DVH
  • Esophageal cancer
  • VB V
  • VB V
  • chemoradiation
  • hematological toxicity
  • mean vertebral dose
  • vertebral body


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