Acupuncture-like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation versus pilocarpine in treating radiation-induced xerostomia: Results of RTOG 0537 phase 3 study

Raimond K.W. Wong, Snehal Deshmukh, Gwen Wyatt, Stephen Sagar, Anurag K. Singh, Khalil Sultanem, Phuc F. Nguyen-Tân, Sue S. Yom, Joseph Cardinale, Min Yao, Ian Hodson, Chance L. Matthiesen, John Suh, Harish Thakrar, Stephanie L. Pugh, Lawrence Berk

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Purpose and Objectives This report presents the analysis of the RTOG 0537 multicenter randomized study that compared acupuncture-like transcutaneous stimulation (ALTENS) with pilocarpine (PC) for relieving radiation-induced xerostomia. Methods and Materials Eligible patients were randomized to twice-weekly 20-minute ALTENS sessions for 24 sessions during 12 weeks or PC (5 mg 3 times daily for 12 weeks). The primary endpoint was the change in the University of Michigan Xerostomia-Related Quality of Life Scale (XeQOLS) scores from baseline to 9 months from randomization (MFR). Secondary endpoints included basal and citric acid primed whole salivary production (WSP), ratios of positive responders (defined as patients with ≥20% reduction in overall radiation-induced xerostomia symptom burden), and the presence of adverse events based on the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events version 3. An intention-to-treat analysis was conducted. Results One hundred forty-eight patients were randomized. Only 96 patients completed the required XeQOLS and were evaluable at 9 MFR (representing merely 68.6% statistical power). Seventy-six patients were evaluable at 15 MFR. The median change in the overall XeQOLS in ALTENS and PC groups at 9 and 15 MFR were -0.53 and -0.27 (P=.45) and -0.6 and -0.47 (P=.21). The corresponding percentages of positive responders were 81% and 72% (P=.34) and 83% and 63% (P=.04). Changes in WSP were not significantly different between the groups. Grade 3 or less adverse events, mostly consisting of grade 1, developed in 20.8% of patients in the ALTENS group and in 61.6% of the PC group. Conclusions The observed effect size was smaller than hypothesized, and statistical power was limited because only 96 of the recruited 148 patients were evaluable. The primary endpoint - the change in radiation-induced xerostomia symptom burden at 9 MFR - was not significantly different between the ALTENS and PC groups. There was significantly less toxicity in patients receiving ALTENS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-227
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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