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This article is the author's final published version in Advances in Radiation Oncology, Volume 9, Issue 8, August 2024, Article number 101515.

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Purpose: Oropharyngeal squamous cell cancers (OPSCCs) are traditionally managed with surgery and, if indicated, adjuvant radiation therapy (RT) with or without chemotherapy. NCCN recommends keeping the time from surgery to the start of RT (TSRT) within 6 weeks to avoid possibly compromising patient outcomes. HPV+ OPSCCs behave more favorably than HPV- OPSCCs. We hypothesized that TSRT beyond 6 weeks may not portend poorer outcomes for the former. Methods: We identified nonmetastatic, high-risk HPV+ OPSCCs treated with multimodal therapy at 2 institutions. Prolonged TSRT was defined as >6 weeks and was evaluated for association with recurrence-free survival (RFS). Radiation treatment time (RTT; time from the first to the last day of RT), total treatment package time (TTPT; time from surgery to the end of adjuvant treatments), de-escalated RT (dose ≤56 Gy), concurrent chemotherapy, smoking history, and treatment institution were evaluated as possible confounders. Results: In total, 96 patients were included. The median follow-up time was 62 months (4-123 months); 69 patients underwent transoral robotic surgeries, and 27 received open surgeries. The median postoperative RT dose was 60 Gy (50-70.8 Gy). The median TSRT, RTT, and TTPT were 38 days (11-208), 43 days (26-56 days), and 81 days (40-255 days), respectively. Ten patients failed treatment at a median of 8 months (4-64 months). Two locoregional and 4 distant failures occurred in the group without prolonged TSRT, whereas 2 locoregional and 2 distant failures were recorded in the prolonged TSRT group. Prolonged TTPT, de-escalated RT, chemotherapy, smoking history, and treatment institution were not associated with treatment failure. RTT was dropped from our analyses as no events appeared in the prolonged RTT group, and no reliable hazard ratio could be computed. Conclusions: TSRT > 6 weeks was not significantly associated with inferior outcomes in the postoperative management of HPV+ OPSCCs. Longer TSRT may facilitate better recovery from surgical toxicity, as needed, without compromising oncologic outcomes. The TSRT goal for these cancers should be investigated in future studies.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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Available for download on Thursday, August 01, 2024