To assess the role of sentinel lymph-node biopsy (SLNB) and FDG-PET in staging and radiation treatment (RT) of anal cancer patients. This retrospective study was performed on 80 patients (male: 32, female: 48) with a median age of 60 years (39–89 years) with anal squamous cell carcinoma who were treated from March 2008 to March 2018 at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital. Patients without clinical evidence of inguinal LNs metastases and/or with discordance between clinical evidence and imaging features were considered for SLNB. FDG-PET was performed in 69/80 patients. Patients with negative imaging in inguinal region and negative SLNB could avoid RT on groin to spare inguinal toxicity. CTV included GTV (primary tumour and positive LNs) and pelvic ± inguinal LNs. PTV1 and PTV2 corresponded to GTV and CTV, respectively, adding 0.5 cm. RT dose was 50.4 Gy/28 fractions to PTV2 and 64.8 Gy/36 fractions to PTV1, delivered with 3DCRT (n = 24) or IMRT (n = 56), concomitant to Mitomycin-C and 5-FU chemotherapy. FDG-PET showed inguinal uptake in 21/69 patients (30%) and was negative in 48/69 patients (70%). Lymphoscintigraphy was performed in 11/21 positive patients (4 patients SLNB confirmed inguinal metastases, 6 patients false positive and 1 patient SLN not found), and in 29/48 negative patients (5/29 showed metastases, 23/29 true negative and 1 SLN not found). Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value of FDG-PET were 62%, 79%, 40% and 82%, respectively. Median follow-up time from diagnosis was 40.3 months (range: 4.6–136.4 months): 69 patients (86%) showed a complete response, 10 patients (13%) a partial response, 1 patient (1%) a stable disease. Patients treated on groin (n = 54) versus not treated (n = 26) showed more inguinal dermatitis (G1–G2: 50% vs. 12%; G3–G4: 17% vs. 0%, p < 0.05). For patients treated on groin, G3–G4 inguinal dermatitis, stomatitis and neutropenia were significantly reduced with IMRT against 3DCRT techniques (13% vs. 36%, p = 0.10; 3% vs. 36%, p = 0.003; 8% vs. 29%, p = 0.02, respectively). SLNB improves the FDG-PET inguinal LNs staging in guiding the decision to treat inguinal nodes. IMRT technique significantly reduced G3-G4 toxicities when patients are treated on groin.
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