A diagnosis of collagen vascular disease (CVD) may predispose to radiotherapy (RT) toxicity. The objective of the current study was to identify factors that influence RT toxicity in the setting of CVD.


A total of 86 RT courses for 73 patients with CVD were delivered between 1985 and 2005. CVD subtypes include rheumatoid arthritis (RA; 33 patients), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; 13 patients), scleroderma (9 patients), dermatomyositis/polymyositis (5 patients), ankylosing spondylitis (4 patients), polymyalgia rheumatica/temporal arteritis (4 patients), Wegener granulomatosis (3 patients), and mixed connective tissue disorders (MCTD)/other (2 patients). Each patient with CVD was matched to 1 to 3 controls with respect to sex, race, site irradiated, RT dose (±2 Gray), and age (±5 years).


There was no significant difference between CVD patients (65.1%) and controls (72.5%) experiencing any acute toxicity. CVD patients had a higher incidence of any late toxicity (29.1% vs 14%; P = .001), and a trend toward an increased rate of severe late toxicity (9.3% vs 3.7%; P = .079). RT delivered to the breast had increased risk of severe acute toxicity, whereas RT to the pelvis had increased risk of severe acute and late toxicity. RT administered in the setting of scleroderma carried a higher risk of severe late toxicity, whereas RT to SLE patients carried a higher risk of severe acute and late toxicity.


Although generally well tolerated, RT in the setting of CVD appears to carry a higher risk of late toxicity. RT to the pelvis or in the setting of SLE or scleroderma may predispose to an even greater risk of severe toxicity. These issues should be considered when deciding whether to offer RT for these patients.

Cancer 2008;113:648–53.

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