Tumor control of cervical lymph node metastases of unknown primary origin: the impact of the radiotherapy target volume

Jos M. J. A. A. Straetmans*, Marijn Stuut, Sanne Wagemakers, Frank Hoebers, Johannes H. A. M. Kaanders, Ernst Jan M. Speel, Willem J. G. Melchers, Piet Slootweg, Bernd Kremer, Martin Lacko, Robert P. Takes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Purpose Debate on the extent of treatment of neck metastasis of cancer of unknown primary tumors (CUPs) is still ongoing. In two Dutch tertiary referral centers, the post-surgical radiation target volume changed from the bilateral neck including the pharyngeal axis to the unilateral neck only, in the course of the last decade. This study aims to investigate the outcome of patients with CUP before and after de-escalation of post-surgical radiotherapy. Methods Data of two Dutch tertiary referral centers were merged. Disease-free survival (DFS), overall survival (OS), and regional control rate (RCR) of 80 patients diagnosed with CUP (squamous cell and undifferentiated carcinomas) between 1990 and 2009 were retrospectively analyzed. Results Thirty patients received bilateral neck and pharyngeal axis radiotherapy and 42 patients ipsilateral radiotherapy only. In another eight patients, the postsurgical radiation target volume was expanded to the contralateral neck or to the pharyngeal axis, due to suspicious lesions on imaging. The 5-year DFS, OS and RCR were 60%, 51.2%, and 80%, respectively, in the total patient population. RCR did not differ in patients treated with ipsilateral as compared to bilateral radiotherapy nor did 5-year OS and DFS. No tumors occurred in the pharyngeal axis. Conclusion In this study, omitting elective treatment of the contralateral neck and pharyngeal axis did not lead to a decrease in locoregional control or survival rates when treating patients with CUP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1753-1761
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Lymph node
  • Pathology
  • Neoplasms
  • Unknown primary
  • Neck dissection
  • Radiotherapy
  • Survival rate
  • NECK
  • HEAD

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