A randomised multicentre trial of continuous hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy (CHART) versus conventional radiotherapy in head and neck cancer

Is a more intensive form of radiotherapy better for treating people with head and neck cancer?

What was this study about?

People with head and neck cancer are often treated with radiotherapy. This is usually given once per day with breaks at weekends. This trial looked at whether it is more effective to give people with head and neck cancer this conventional radiotherapy treatment, or to give them radiotherapy three times a day, with a 6 hour gap between treatments, over a period of 12 days. This type of radiotherapy is called continuous hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy, or CHART. A parallel trial, called CH01, looked at using CHART to treat people with lung cancer.

What difference did this study make?

This trial did not find big differences between what happened to people who were treated with CHART and people who were treated with the conventional radiotherapy - the cancer was cured, spread or came back in roughly the same number of people who had each type of radiotherapy. However, people treated with CHART seemed to have fewer late side effects (i.e. side effects occurring many years after treatment had been completed) than those who had received conventional radiotherapy.

This study showed that using CHART did not make a big difference to people with head and neck cancer.

Researchers who carried out this trial used Bayesian methods to design and monitor it. A Bayesian method is a statistical approach that assesses the likelihood of a theory being correct using both the data from the study and researchers' opinions before the study. This method has been used in subsequent trials.

Type of study

Randomised trial

Contact details

Who funded the study?

The Medical Research Council, the Cancer Research Campaign (now Cancer Research UK) and the Department of Health.

When did it take place?

This trial recruited patients between 1990 and 1995. The results of the trial were published in 1996.

Where did it take place?

Patients were recruited from 11 centres across the UK and Germany.

Who was included?

918 patients from 11 hospitals took part in this trial.