Background:

The FLASH effect is characterized by normal tissue sparing without compromising tumor control. Although demonstrated in various preclinical models, safe translation of FLASH-radiotherapy stands to benefit from larger vertebrate animal models. Based on prior results, we designed a randomized phase III trial to investigate the FLASH effect in cat patients with spontaneous tumors. In parallel, the sparing capacity of FLASH-radiotherapy was studied on mini pigs by using large field irradiation.

Methods:

Cats with T1-T2, N0 carcinomas of the nasal planum were randomly assigned to two arms of electron irradiation: arm 1 was the standard of care (SoC) and used 10 × 4.8 Gy (90% isodose); arm 2 used 1 × 30 Gy (90% isodose) FLASH. Mini pigs were irradiated using applicators of increasing size and a single surface dose of 31 Gy FLASH.

Results:

In cats, acute side effects were mild and similar in both arms. The trial was prematurely interrupted due to maxillary bone necrosis, which occurred 9 to 15 months after radiotherapy in 3 of 7 cats treated with FLASH-radiotherapy (43%), as compared with 0 of 9 cats treated with SoC. All cats were tumor-free at 1 year in both arms, with one cat progressing later in each arm. In pigs, no acute toxicity was recorded, but severe late skin necrosis occurred in a volume-dependent manner (7–9 months), which later resolved.

Conclusions:

The reported outcomes point to the caveats of translating single-high-dose FLASH-radiotherapy and emphasizes the need for caution and further investigations.

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Supplementary data