Palliative radiotherapy for non-melanoma skin cancer

December 20, 2010


The primary objective of this study was to assess the rate of tumour response to the palliative radiotherapy regimen used at our centre (8 Gy/fraction on days 0, 7, 21) for non-melanoma skin cancer. The secondary objective was to evaluate symptom palliation.


A retrospective chart review identified patients treated with this palliative radiotherapy regimen from August 2003 to December 2008. Patient age, gender, tumour histology, location, size, presenting symptoms and radiation treatment factors were recorded at baseline. The tumour size and tumour-related symptoms were recorded at each fraction and follow-up visit. The results were analysed on an intent to treat basis.


Twenty-eight patients received 31 courses of palliative radiation for basal cell (five) or squamous cell (26) carcinoma of the skin. Twenty-one patients with 23 tumours attended at least one follow-up visit, and seven patients had incomplete follow-up data. At the time of last follow-up (median 17 weeks), the response rate was 58.1% (complete response 15/31; partial response 3/31). A complete response to treatment was correlated with a smaller tumour size at day 21 (P=0.0143). Presenting symptoms were alleviated in 61.3% (19/31) of symptomatic sites. No severe late toxicities were seen.


This palliative regimen offers impressive response rates and effective symptom palliation for patients with non-melanoma skin cancer.

Barnes EA, Breen D, Culleton S, Zhang L, Kamra J, Tsao M & Balogh J.

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