Postoperative irradiation of minor salivary gland malignancies of the head and neck

Quynh Thu Le, Sandra Birdwell, David J. Terris, Edward C. Gabalski, Anna Varghese, Willard E. Fee, Don R. Goffinet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objectives: (1) To review the Stanford experience with postoperative radiotherapy for minor salivary gland carcinomas of the head and neck. (2) To identify patterns of failure and prognostic factors for these tumors. Materials and methods: Fifty-four patients with localized tumors were treated with curative intent at Stanford University between 1966 and 1995. The 1992 AJCC staging for squamous cell carcinomas was used to retrospectively stage these patients. Thirteen percent had stage I, 22% stage II, 26% stage III, and 39% stage IV neoplasms. Thirty-two patients (59%) had adenoid cystic carcinoma, 15 (28%) had adenocarcinoma, and seven (13%) had mucoepidermoid carcinoma. Thirty (55%) had positive surgical margins and seven (13%) had cervical lymph node involvement at diagnosis. The median follow-up for alive patients was 7.8 years (range: 25 months-28.9 years). Results: The 5- and 10- year actuarial local control rates were 91 and 88%, respectively. Advanced T- stage (T3-4), involved surgical margins, adenocarcinoma histology, and sinonasal and oropharyngeal primaries were associated with poorer local control. The 5- and 10-year actuarial freedom from distant metastasis were 86 and 81%, respectively. Advanced T-stage (T3-4), lymph node involvement at diagnosis, adenoid cystic and high-grade mucoepidermoid histology were associated with a higher risk of distant metastases. The 10-year cause- specific survival (CSS) and overall survival (OS) were 81% and 63%, respectively. On multivariate analysis, prognostic factors affecting survival were T-stage (favoring T1-2), and N-stage (favoring NO). When T- and N-stage were combined to form the AJCC stage, the latter became the most significant factor for survival. The 10-year OS was 86% for stage I-II vs. 52% for stage III-IV tumors. Late treatment-related toxicity was low (3/54); most complications were mild and no cranial nerve damage was noted. Conclusions: Surgical resection and carefully planned post-operative radiation therapy for minor salivary gland tumors is well tolerated and effective with high local control rates. AJCC stage was the most significant predictor for survival and should be used for staging minor salivary gland carcinomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Head and neck
  • Minor salivary gland tumor
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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