Influence of FAZA PET hypoxia and HPV-status for the outcome of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) treated with radiotherapy: Long-term results from the DAHANCA 24 trial (NCT01017224).

Authors Saksø M, Mortensen LS, Primdahl H, Johansen J, Kallehauge J, Hansen CR, Overgaard J
Source Radiother Oncol. 2020 Aug 14;151:126-133. Publicationdate 14 Aug 2020


Hypoxic tumor volumes can be visualized with 18F-FAZA PET/CT. In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), hypoxia is important for the clinical outcome after primary radiotherapy (RT). The outcome is furthermore heavily influenced by the HPV/p16-positivity of oropharyngeal tumors (OPCp16+ tumors). The study purposes were 1) to report on locoregional failures within five years after primary RT in a prospective cohort stratified by both HPV/p16-status and PET hypoxia and 2) to characterize the failure site and the spatial association to PET hypoxia.


From 2009-2011, 38 patients with non-metastatic SCC of the larynx, oro-, hypo- and nasopharynx completing primary RT were included in the prospective DAHANCA 24 trial (NCT01017224). Fifteen patients had OPCp16+ tumors. All were imaged with a static FAZA PET/CT prior to treatment. The hypoxia threshold was determined by a tumor-to-muscle ratio (TMR) of 1.6. Recurrences were documented histologically. Imaging of the recurrence was deformable fused with the pre-treatment FAZA PET/CT. The spatial information of recurrence- and hypoxic volumes were compared visually.


Sixteen patients had more hypoxic tumors (high tracer uptake, TMR≥1.6) before treatment (42%). With a median follow-up of 7.8 years, nine locoregional recurrences were observed, of which seven were in patients with high-uptake tumors (44% and 9% respectively, HR 5.8 [1.2-28.2]). The risk of locoregional recurrence was highest among patients with more hypoxic, non-OPCp16+ tumors (57% [21-94%]), with a risk difference of 45% [4-86%], when comparing to less hypoxic, non-OPCp16+ tumors. Eight patients had sufficient imaging of the recurrence for co-registration with the FAZA PET/CT. Six had hypoxic primary tumors, and in two, the recurrence was overlapping the baseline hypoxic subvolume.


HNSCC demonstrating a TMR≥1.6 at baseline is significantly associated with treatment failure after primary RT. In addition to HPV/p16-status, FAZA PET/CT has potential for the selection of tumors requiring treatment intensification.