Advances in Head-and-Neck Interventional Radiotherapy (Brachytherapy)


Interventional radiotherapy, also known as brachytherapy, is the use of sealed radioactive sources that directly deliver radiation to the tumor or tumor bed. Its unique dose distribution profile allows for high conformality, making it a very useful modality in the treatment of cancers in the head and neck, where different organs and substructures that serve various but related functions are situated close to each other.

In recent years, we have seen several important technological breakthroughs in the field, especially regarding its application in head and neck cancers. These include advances in treatment delivery, dosimetry planning image guidance , and catheter positioning techniques . These innovations, which often require interdisciplinary interventions, have resulted in enhanced treatment accuracy, and therefore, major clinical advantages in terms of increased local control and decreased toxicity, as well as economic benefits.

In order to highlight the differences from old brachytherapy techniques, a more appropriate terminology should perhaps be adopted, to signify these advancements that resulted in new opportunities, approaches and better outcomes – interventional radiotherapy (IRT). Such a change in terminology will not only allow recognition of these advances, but also a meaningful distinction from obsolete techniques and suboptimal outcomes that are associated with traditional brachytherapy. This is very important in increasing awareness among professionals outside the field of radiation oncology.

We briefly review these recent advances, the current indications, and future directions for IRT in head-and-neck cancers.

Keywords : interventional radiotherapy, brachytherapy, head-and-neck cancers, image-guidance

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