Precision association of lymphatic disease spread with radiation-associated toxicity in oropharyngeal squamous carcinomas

Spatial-Non-spatial Multi-Dimensional Analysis of Radiotherapy Treatment/Toxicity Team SMART3

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To determine whether patient similarity in terms of head and neck cancer spread through lymph nodes correlates significantly with radiation-associated toxicity.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: 582 head and neck cancer patients received radiotherapy for oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) and had non-metastatic affected lymph nodes in the head and neck. Affected lymph nodes were segmented from pretreatment contrast-enhanced tomography scans and categorized according to consensus guidelines. Similar patients were clustered into 4 groups according to a graph-based representation of disease spread through affected lymph nodes. Correlation between dysphagia-associated symptoms and patient groups was calculated.

RESULTS: Out of 582 patients, 26% (152) experienced toxicity during a follow up evaluation 6 months after completion of radiotherapy treatment. Patient groups identified by our approach were significantly correlated with dysphagia, feeding tube, and aspiration toxicity (p < .0005).

DISCUSSION: Our results suggest that structural geometry-aware characterization of affected lymph nodes can be used to better predict radiation-associated dysphagia at time of diagnosis, and better inform treatment guidelines.

CONCLUSION: Our work successfully stratified a patient cohort into similar groups using a structural geometry, graph-encoding of affected lymph nodes in oropharyngeal cancer patients, that were predictive of late radiation-associated dysphagia and toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Head and neck cancer
  • Medical informatics
  • Oropharynx cancer
  • Precision medicine
  • Radiation-associated dysphagia
  • Statistical data mining
  • Humans
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/radiotherapy
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms/radiotherapy
  • Lymphatic Diseases

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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