Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) in the treatment of head and neck cancer

Marc W. Münter, Ulrich Köppen, Anika Ramuscak, Christian Sittel, Nils Wegner


This review will focus on the clinical results of intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) in head and neck cancer (HNC). Treatment in different clinical situations of HNC is challenging and requires a multidisciplinary team to also minimize side effects of curative disease management which often reduce the quality of life of the patients. Even though early and more advanced stages can be treated with curative intent in many HNC cases, local recurrences still pose a clinical problem. Radiotherapy is required in the primary treatment, in adjuvant situations and also for recurrent disease. IORT offers the theoretical and practical option to apply radiation in close discussion with the surgeon and with high local precision to areas of tumor involvement and/or surgical resection. Protection of normal tissue is an important aspect of radiation therapy, especially when a second treatment course of radiation is planned or necessary. In such instances IORT can offer additional benefit for patients with HNC when compared with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT).