Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) yields better outcomes and fewer toxicities for radiation therapy (RT) of head and neck cancers (HNCs), including nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). IMRT is the standard RT treatment and has been widely adopted in Western countries to treat HNCs. However, its uptake in clinical practice among NPC patients has never been studied.

We investigated the use of IMRT for NPC using data from a nationwide cancer registry to describe the use of IMRT among NPC patients in Japan. We analyzed the data of patients with HNC, including NPC, who underwent IMRT between 2012 and 2014, as recorded in the hospital-based cancer registries linked with insurance claims. We calculated the proportion of patients with NPC who underwent IMRT at each hospital. To evaluate the use of IMRT for NPC, the IMRT use for NPC was compared with the proportion of patients with prostate cancer who underwent IMRT.

Among 508 patients with NPC who underwent RT at one of 87 hospitals, 348 (69%) underwent IMRT. This proportion gradually increased between 2012 and 2014 (62%, 64% and 77%). Meanwhile, 4790 patients with prostate cancer (90%) underwent IMRT. Although some hospitals where IMRT was performed treated many patients with NPC, the proportion of patients with NPC who were treated with IMRT was low.

IMRT has not been widely adopted in Japan for treating NPC. Barriers for adopting its use should be identified to close the gap between the standard and actual medical practice in Japan.

Japanese journal of clinical oncology. 2019 Jul 01 [Epub]

Ryoko Rikitake, Yoichiro Tsukada, Mizuo Ando, Masafumi Yoshida, Momoko Iwamoto, Tatsuya Yamasoba, Takahiro Higashi

Division of Health Services Research, Center for Cancer Control and Information Services, National Cancer Center, Tokyo, Japan., Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.