Purpose: Concurrent chemoradiation (CCRT) is the standard curative treatment of anal canal cancer (ACC). The role of a brachytherapy (BRT) boost in this setting is still debated. Therefore, the aim of this analysis was to retrospectively evaluate the clinical outcomes in a large cohort of ACC patients treated with CCRT plus BRT boost or external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) boost.
Material and methods: Patients with non-metastatic ACC, treated in our department between January 2003 and December 2014 were included in this analysis. The initial treatment was based on EBRT to the pelvis (prescribed dose, 45 Gy/1.8 Gy) plus concurrent chemotherapy (5-fluorouracil and mitomycin-C). Patients received a pulsed-dose-rate BRT boost on the primary tumor (median dose, 20 Gy; range, 13-25 Gy) 2-3 weeks after the end of CCRT. In patients with contraindications to BRT, an EBRT boost (prescribed dose, 16 Gy, 2 Gy/fraction) was delivered immediately after CCRT.
Results: One-hundred-twenty-three patients were included in this analysis (median age, 61 years; range, 36-93 years; squamous-cell carcinoma, 78%; HIV+, 6%; median follow-up, 71 months; range, 2-158 months). The actuarial 5-year local control (LC), distant metastasis-free survival, colostomy-free survival, and overall survival (OS) rates were 81.7%, 92.3%, 62.3%, and 74.0%, respectively. At univariate analysis, patients aged ≤ 65 years (p < 0.010), cT1-2 stage (p = 0.004), and receiving a BRT boost (p = 0.015) showed significantly improved OS. At multivariate analysis, advanced tumor stage cT3-cT4 (HR, 2.12; 95% CI: 1.09-4.14; p = 0.027), and age > 65 years (HR, 3.03; 95% CI: 1.54-5.95; p = 0.001) significantly predicted increased risk of mortality. The crude rate of toxicity-related colostomies was 4.9%.
Conclusions: The role of BRT boost in ACC remains unclear since the outcomes were not clearly different compared to CCRT alone. However, further improvement of clinical results in ACC treatment is needed, and therefore prospective trials based on advanced (image-guided/adapted) BRT techniques are warranted.