A trial looking at a new method of radiotherapy versus standard radiotherapy for head and neck cancers (PARSPORT)

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers




Phase 3

This trial was comparing a new type of radiotherapy treatment called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) with standard radiotherapy treatment for head and neck cancers. This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.

You may have radiotherapy on its own, or after surgery, for head and neck cancers. But radiotherapy has side effects. The radiotherapy can often affect the salivary glands, causing a very dry mouth. Other side effects include a sore throat and problems with swallowing.

The new method is called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, or IMRT for short. IMRT alters the radiotherapy dose depending on the thickness of the body tissue. So the cancer gets the same dose across the treatment area. It also allows the radiotherapy beams to be shaped more accurately and directed at the cancer, while avoiding the surrounding normal tissue. You may have fewer side effects. But there is a small risk that this shaped radiotherapy will miss some of the cancer and so may not work so well.

The aims of this trial were to find out if IMRT caused fewer side effects and if it worked as well as standard radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.

Summary of results

The results showed dry mouth was less of a problem for people who had IMRT than for people who had standard radiotherapy treatment.

The trial recruited 94 people with head and neck cancers.

  • Half had standard radiotherapy treatment
  • Half had IMRT

Most people had radiotherapy as their first treatment, but 23 people had it after surgery.

Two years after treatment, about 3 out of 10 people (29%) who had IMRT had a dry mouth, compared with over 8 out of 10 people (83%) who had conventional radiotherapy.

The only side effect that was significantly Open a glossary item worse for people who had IMRT was tiredness (fatigue). The researchers suggest this could be due to a higher dose of radiation affecting healthy tissue near to the cancer.

About 8 out of 10 people in both groups had no sign of the cancer coming back 2 years after treatment. Although the researchers are continuing to follow the progress of people in the trial, they point out that the number of people taking part is too small to show any differences between the 2 groups in the average length of time people live after treatment.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Prof Chris Nutting

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/03/005.

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 274

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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