Public Release: 

Shorter course of treatment may provide better outcome for intermediate-risk prostate cancer

New research suggests that treatment with a shorter course of radiation using higher doses over fewer days may be the preferred approach for some men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Boston, MA-- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among males in the United States. Approximately, 180,000 men are diagnosed each year, and approximately 95 percent of these men have localized disease that is potentially curable. Previously, studies have consistently demonstrated that conventionally fractionated high dose external beam radiation therapy (CRT), consisting of daily treatment for two months, decreases prostate cancer recurrence, and improves metastasis-free survival. Previous studies also demonstrate that moderate hypo-fractionated radiation therapy (HRT), consisting of daily treatment for one month using a larger dose per treatment, provides a similar low risk of recurrence, and may even be lower with HRT than CRT.

To accurately test the hypothesis of a lower risk of recurrence with HRT, a new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital published in European Urology Focus, performed a systematic review and meta-analysis, pooling available data, to assess whether an improved risk of recurrence could be demonstrated using HRT compared with CRT, in addition to assessing the relative impact of these two treatments on bladder and rectal function. Researchers found that the one-month duration HRT, was associated with a significant improvement in recurrence compared to the two-month duration CRT and therefore would be reasonable to consider in men with intermediate risk prostate cancer and who do not have risk factors that could predispose the patient to bladder side effects several years after the treatment is complete.

"Our results provide evidence for clinicians to consider HRT as compared with CRT as a preferred radiation treatment in men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer and at low risk of other complications," stated Trevor Royce, MD, MPH, radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and first author of the study. "Treatment with a shorter course of radiation and higher doses over fewer days may be the preferred approach in appropriately selected patients with localized prostate cancer, reducing treatment time and cost to the patient, and increasing patient convenience and access to treatment."

Researchers analyzed data from over 5,000 men from three randomized studies comparing HRT with CRT in men with prostate cancer. Of the 5,484 men, 3,553 men, or 64.8 percent had intermediate-risk prostate cancer. HRT as compared with CRT was associated with a significant 13 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence. No significant difference in overall survival was found between HRT and CRT but researchers noted that the possibility exists that men in excellent health could also achieve an overall survival benefit with HRT as compared with CRT.

"Late bladder and urethra toxicities were noted to be higher in the HRT as compared to CRT group which necessitates carefully choosing men who are not at risk for sustaining a late bladder or urethral side effect," said Anthony D'Amico, MD, PhD, chief, Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and senior author of the study. "Men to exclude would be those who get up more than three times at night to urinate, or have urgency to urinate, or incontinence, or men who are on anti-coagulants that could increase the risk of bleeding," D'Amico said.

Researchers say further study is needed using individual patient-level data among men with high risk prostate cancer to assess the benefit of HRT and whether treatment toxicity, particularly those to the bladder and urinary system are also low with HRT.

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No funding was obtained to support this study.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare. BWH has more than 4.2 million annual patient visits and nearly 46,000 inpatient stays, is the largest birthing center in Massachusetts and employs nearly 16,000 people. The Brigham's medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in patient care, quality improvement and patient safety initiatives, and its dedication to research, innovation, community engagement and educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Brigham Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, more than 3,000 researchers, including physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by nearly $666 million in funding. For the last 25 years, BWH ranked second in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) among independent hospitals. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative as well as the TIMI Study Group, one of the premier cardiovascular clinical trials groups. For more information, resources and to follow us on social media, please visit BWH's online newsroom.

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