Management of severe bio-radiation dermatitis induced by radiotherapy and cetuximab in patients with head and neck cancer: emphasizing the role of calcium alginate dressings
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Severe bio-radiation dermatitis may develop in patients treated with concurrent radiotherapy and cetuximab for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The aim of our work was to report on the impact of a grade-specific management approach on treatment tolerability.
Concomitant radiotherapy and cetuximab was prescribed for patients deemed ineligible for cisplatin-based chemoradiation. Since 2014, an advanced wound care nursing team was established in our clinic to implement a standardized policy for skin toxicity. A central role of calcium alginate dressings was defined in our management algorithm. The correlation between patient, disease, and treatment features with severe bio-radiation dermatitis and treatment tolerability was evaluated.
Between 2007 and 2018, 51 patients were treated at our center with radiotherapy and cetuximab. The incidence of G3/G4 bio-radiation dermatitis was 43.1%. Comparing two consecutive cohorts of 26 and 25 patients treated before and after January 2014, respectively, the adoption of a grade-specific dermatitis management allowed to improve treatment tolerability. A mean radiation treatment interruption of 8.42 days (SD, 6.73; 95% CI 5.7–11.1) was reduced to 0.86 days (SD, 2.66; 95% CI − 0.28–2.02) in the more recent group (p < 0.0001). Mean relative dose intensity of cetuximab was also significantly higher (86.3% vs 74.5%, p = 0.0226).
Routine involvement of an advanced wound care management team and early consideration for calcium alginate dressings in case of moist desquamation should be warranted to ensure high compliance to radiotherapy and cetuximab in patients with head and neck cancer.
KeywordsHead and neck cancer Radiotherapy Cetuximab Bio-radiation dermatitis Skin toxicity
The authors wish to thank the advanced wound care nursing team (Mrs. Vincenza Capalbo, Beatrice Formigli, Flavia Picone, and Susanna Targioni) for the excellent work.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested
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