Open Access Study protocol

Randomised trial of proton vs. carbon ion radiation therapy in patients with low and intermediate grade chondrosarcoma of the skull base, clinical phase III study

Anna V Nikoghosyan1*, Geraldine Rauch2, Marc W Münter1, Alexandra D Jensen1, Stephanie E Combs1, Meinhard Kieser2 and Jürgen Debus1

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Clinical Radiology, University of Heidelberg, INF 400, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

2 Institute of Medical Biometry and Informatics, University of Heidelberg, INF 305, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2010, 10:606  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-606

Published: 5 November 2010



Low and intermediate grade chondrosarcomas are relative rare bone tumours. About 5-12% of all chondrosarcomas are localized in base of skull region. Low grade chondrosarcoma has a low incidence of distant metastasis but is potentially lethal disease. Therefore, local therapy is of crucial importance in the treatment of skull base chondrosarcomas. Surgical resection is the primary treatment standard. Unfortunately the late diagnosis and diagnosis at the extensive stage are common due to the slow and asymptomatic growth of the lesions. Consequently, complete resection is hindered due to close proximity to critical and hence dose limiting organs such as optic nerves, chiasm and brainstem. Adjuvant or additional radiation therapy is very important for the improvement of local control rates in the primary treatment. Proton therapy is the gold standard in the treatment of skull base chondrosarcomas. However, high-LET (linear energy transfer) beams such as carbon ions theoretically offer advantages by enhanced biologic effectiveness in slow-growing tumours.


The study is a prospective randomised active-controlled clinical phase III trial. The trial will be carried out at Heidelberger Ionenstrahl-Therapie (HIT) centre as monocentric trial.

Patients with skull base chondrosarcomas will be randomised to either proton or carbon ion radiation therapy. As a standard, patients will undergo non-invasive, rigid immobilization and target volume definition will be carried out based on CT and MRI data. The biologically isoeffective target dose to the PTV (planning target volume) in carbon ion treatment will be 60 Gy E ± 5% and 70 Gy E ± 5% (standard dose) in proton therapy respectively. The 5 year local-progression free survival (LPFS) rate will be analysed as primary end point. Overall survival, progression free and metastasis free survival, patterns of recurrence, local control rate and morbidity are the secondary end points.


Up to now it was impossible to compare two different particle therapies, i.e. protons and carbon ions, directly at the same facility in connection with the treatment of low grade skull base chondrosarcomas.

This trial is a phase III study to demonstrate that carbon ion radiotherapy (experimental treatment) is not relevantly inferior and at least as good as proton radiotherapy (standard treatment) with respect to 5 year LPFS in the treatment of chondrosarcomas. Additionally, we expect less toxicity in the carbon ion treatment arm.

Trial Registration identifier: NCT01182753