Study: Shorter, higher-dose radiotherapy effective for prostate cancer

Intensity-modulated radiotherapy--Courtesy of Jan Chlebik, The Institute for Cancer Research

A shorter course of radiotherapy with fewer sessions and higher dosage is as effective as the standard of care in treating prostate cancer, a U.K. study found. Switching over to this shorter schedule would not only benefit patients, but also help the National Health Service save tens of millions of pounds.

The 14-year trial involved more than 3,200 prostate cancer patients at 70 centers across the U.K. It compared the NHS standard radiotherapy course of 37 doses of 2 Grays per day with two alternative schedules: 19 doses of 3 Grays per day and 20 doses of 3 Grays per day. After 5 years, the 20-dose course was not inferior to the standard for treatment efficacy or quality of life, The Institute of Cancer Research London said in a statement. The ICR led the trial along with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

The trial also showed that a shorter course of treatment with higher doses of intensity-modulated radiotherapy correlated with a lower rate of side effects from the radiation. The trial brought intensity-modulated radiotherapy capabilities for prostate cancer to many research centers nationwide, and the investigators hope that it will soon become the standard of care on the NHS.

"If the new regime is incorporated into routine clinical practice, it will save the NHS tens of millions of pounds per year as well as freeing up space for other patients to have radiotherapy more quickly," said lead investigator David Dearnaley, professor of Uro-Oncology at the ICR and consultant clinical oncologist at The Royal Marsden, in the statement. It would save 17 hospital trips for each patient, which would reduce the number of these visits by more than 150,000 per year.

The ICR and The Royal Marsden have led similar trials in breast cancer, proving the benefits of shorter courses of higher-dose radiation. They helped the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence compose guidance that has saved the NHS £50 million per year since 2009.

- here's the statement

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