Current head and neck intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) techniques cause significant toxicity. This may be explained in part by the fact that IMRT cannot compensate for changes in the location of disease and normal anatomy during treatment, leading to exposure of at-risk bystander tissues to higher-than-anticipated doses. Adaptive radiotherapy (ART) is a novel approach to correct for daily tumor and normal tissue variations through online or offline modification of original IMRT target volumes and plans. ART has been discussed on a conceptual level for many years, but technical limitations have hampered its integration into routine care. In this paper, we review the key anatomic, dosimetric, and treatment delivery issues at play in current investigational development of head and neck ART. We also describe pilot findings from initial clinical deployment of head and neck ART, as well as emerging pathways of future research.
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