Tumour hypoxia is a well-known adverse factor for the outcome of radiotherapy. For cervical tumours in particular, several studies indicate large variability in tumour oxygenation. However, clinical evidence shows that the management of cervical cancer including brachytherapy leads to high rate of success. It was the purpose of this study to investigate whether the success of brachytherapy for cervical cancer, seemingly regardless of oxygenation status, could be explained by the characteristics of the brachytherapy dose distributions.
To this end, a previously used in silico model of tumour oxygenation and radiation response was further developed to simulate the treatment of cervical cancer employing a combination of external beam radiotherapy and intracavitary brachytherapy. Using a clinically-derived brachytherapy dose distribution and assuming a homogeneous dose delivered by external radiotherapy, cell survival was assessed on voxel level by taking into account the variation of sensitivity with oxygenation as well as the effects of repair, repopulation and reoxygenation during treatment. Various scenarios were considered for the conformity of the brachytherapy dose distribution to the hypoxic region in the target.
By using the clinically-prescribed brachytherapy dose distribution and varying the total dose delivered with external beam radiotherapy in 25 fractions, the resulting values of the dose for 50% tumour control, D 50, were in agreement with clinically-observed values for high cure rates if fast reoxygenation was assumed. The D 50 was furthermore similar for the different degrees of conformity of the brachytherapy dose distribution to the tumour, regardless of whether the hypoxic fraction was 10%, 25%, or 40%. To achieve 50% control with external RT only, a total dose of more than 70 Gy in 25 fractions would be required for all cases considered.
It can thus be concluded that the high doses delivered in brachytherapy can counteract the increased radioresistance caused by hypoxia if fast reoxygenation is assumed.
2017. Vol. 62, no 2, 560-572 p.