Oral Mucositis Prevention By Low-Level Laser Therapy in Head-and-Neck Cancer Patients Undergoing Concurrent Chemoradiotherapy: A Phase III Randomized Study

Published:December 15, 2010DOI:


      Oral mucositis is a major complication of concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CRT) in head-and-neck cancer patients. Low-level laser (LLL) therapy is a promising preventive therapy. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of LLL therapy to decrease severe oral mucositis and its effect on RT interruptions.

      Methods and Materials

      In the present randomized, double-blind, Phase III study, patients received either gallium-aluminum-arsenide LLL therapy 2.5 J/cm2 or placebo laser, before each radiation fraction. Eligible patients had to have been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma or undifferentiated carcinoma of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, or metastases to the neck with an unknown primary site. They were treated with adjuvant or definitive CRT, consisting of conventional RT 60–70 Gy (range, 1.8–2.0 Gy/d, 5 times/wk) and concurrent cisplatin. The primary endpoints were the oral mucositis severity in Weeks 2, 4, and 6 and the number of RT interruptions because of mucositis. The secondary endpoints included patient-reported pain scores. To detect a decrease in the incidence of Grade 3 or 4 oral mucositis from 80% to 50%, we planned to enroll 74 patients.


      A total of 75 patients were included, and 37 patients received preventive LLL therapy. The mean delivered radiation dose was greater in the patients treated with LLL (69.4 vs. 67.9 Gy, p = .03). During CRT, the number of patients diagnosed with Grade 3 or 4 oral mucositis treated with LLL vs. placebo was 4 vs. 5 (Week 2, p = 1.0), 4 vs. 12 (Week 4, p = .08), and 8 vs. 9 (Week 6, p = 1.0), respectively. More of the patients treated with placebo had RT interruptions because of mucositis (6 vs. 0, p = .02). No difference was detected between the treatment arms in the incidence of severe pain.


      LLL therapy was not effective in reducing severe oral mucositis, although a marginal benefit could not be excluded. It reduced RT interruptions in these head-and-neck cancer patients, which might translate into improved CRT efficacy.
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      Linked Article

      • In Regard to de Lima et al
        International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • PhysicsVol. 85Issue 4
        • Preview
          To the Editor: The Brazilian investigators should be applauded for pursuing a randomized, double-blind controlled trial, seeking to determine whether low-level laser (LLL) therapy can effectively reduce oral mucositis in head-and-neck cancer patients undergoing concurrent chemoradiation therapy (1). This is certainly an important topic that affects many patients. To date, there have been limited gains in effective preventive treatments for oral mucositis (2, 3). However, several limitations in the study methodology severely hinder the ability to assess whether the intervention is effective or not.
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