Background High-dose-rate brachytherapy (HDR-BT) and external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) are two modalities used in the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma. Previous work at our institution showed early complications and outcomes for patients treated with HDR-BT, EBRT, or a combination of both radiation therapy modalities. As the general indications for each of these approaches to radiation therapy differ, it is important to evaluate the use of each in an algorithmic way, reflecting how they are used in contemporary practice at sites that use these treatments. Question/purposes (1) To determine the proportions of intermediate- and long-term complications associated with the use of brachytherapy in the treatment of primary high-grade extremity soft tissue sarcomas; (2), to characterize the long-term morbidity of the three radiation treatment groups using the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group/ European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (RTOG/EORTC) Late Radiation Morbidity Scoring Scheme; (3) to determine whether treatment with HDRBT, EBRT, and HDR-BT+EBRT therapy, in combination with limb-salvage surgery, results in acceptable local control in this high-risk group of sarcomas. Methods We retrospectively studied data from 171 patients with a diagnosis of high-grade extremity soft tissue sarcoma treated with limb-sparing surgery and radiation therapy between 1990 and 2012 at our institution, with a mean followup of 72 months. Of the 171 patients, 33 (20%) were treated with HDR-BT, 128 (75%) with EBRT, and 10 (6%) with HDR-BT+EBRT. We excluded 265 patients with soft tissue sarcomas owing to axial tumor location, previous radiation to the affected extremity, incomplete patient records, patients receiving primary amputation, recurrent tumors, pediatric patients, low- and intermediate-grade tumors, and rhabdoid histology. Fifteen patients (9%) were lost to followup for any reason including died of disease or other causes during the first 12 months postoperatively. This included four patients who received HDR-BT (12%), 11 who received EBRT (9%), and none who received HDR-BT+EBRT (0%) with less than 12 months followup. Determination of radiation therapy technique for each patient was individualized in a multidisciplinary forum of sarcoma specialists. Anticipated close or positive surgical margins and a low likelihood of complex soft tissue procedures were factors that encouraged use of brachytherapy, whereas the anticipated need for secondary procedures and/or soft tissue coverage encouraged use of EBRT alone. Combination therapy was used when the treatment volume exceeded the treatment field of the brachytherapy catheters or when the catheters were used to boost a close or positive surgical margin. Local recurrence, complications, and morbidity outcomes scores (RTOG) were calculated based on chart review. Between-group comparisons pertaining to the proportion of patients experiencing complications, morbidity outcomes scores, and local recurrence rates were not performed because of dissimilarities among the patients in each group at baseline. Results The HDR-BT treatment group showed a high incidence of intermediate-term complications, with the three most common being: deep infection (33%, 11 of 33); dehiscence and delayed wound healing (24%, eight of 33); and seroma and hematoma (21%, seven of 33). The EBRT group showed a high incidence of intermediate- and long-term complications with the three most common being: chronic radiation dermatitis (35%, 45 of 128); fibrosis (27%, 35 of 128); and chronic pain and neuritis (13%, 16 of 128). The RTOG scores for each treatment group were: HDR-BT 0.8 6 SD 1.2; EBRT 1.9 6 2.0; and HDR-BT+EBRT 1.7 6 1.7. Overall, 142 of 169 (84%) patients were free from local recurrence: 27 (82%) in the HDR-BT group, 108 (86%) in the EBRT group, and seven (70%) in the combination therapy group. Conclusions In this single-institution study, an algorithmic approach to using HDR-BT and EBRT in the treatment of patients with high-grade soft tissue sarcomas can yield acceptable complication rates, good morbidity outcome scores, and a high degree of local control. Based on these results, we believe HDR-BT is best for patients with an anticipated close margin, a positive surgical margin, and for patients who are unlikely to receive a complex soft tissue procedure. Conversely, if a secondary procedure and/or soft tissue coverage are likely to be used, EBRT alone may be reasonable. Finally, combination therapy might be considered when the treatment volume exceeded the treatment field capacity for HDR-BT or when the catheters were used to boost a close or positive surgical margin. Level of Evidence Level IV, therapeutic study.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine