Brachy-therapy Helps Prostate Cancer Patients

Prostate cancer treatment with brachytherapy improves outcomes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A crucial part of medical science is continually reviewing the data to make sure the current gold standard is really the best treatment. Many changes in policy have taken place after simple data analysis.

Recently published research found that a form of radiation known as brachytherapy was associated with lower risks and better outcomes than external radiation therapy in treating men with high-risk prostate cancer.

"Ask your oncologist about brachytherapy."

"Today, for the most part, brachytherapy is not being used for these high-risk patients or even recommended," lead author of the study Xinglei Shen, M.D., said. "But if you look at the biology and theory behind it, it makes sense: you can really give a [higher] dose with brachytherapy than with EBRT alone to the prostate. And this presents an opportunity for high-risk patients."

Brachytherapy involves placing a radioactive material close to the tumor, in contrast to the more common therapy where beams of radiation from a machine are aimed at a tumor, known as external beam radiation therapy (EBRT).

Despite lower rates of complications, brachytherapy is not commonly used to treat high-risk cancers, and EBRT was the only therapy used to treat 73.5 percent of the patients in the study.

Used as early as 1901, brachytherapy was abandoned in favor of external radiation therapy, which was safer for the doctor and seen as more effective. Newer techniques and materials developed over the past century contribute to brachytherapy's improvements.

The data analysis of 12,745 prostate cancer patients was published in January in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics by a team working for the Kimmel Cancer Center, a division of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

In the patients treated with either brachytherapy or both forms of radiation, long term mortality was significantly decreased when compared to patients treated with traditional radiation therapy. 

This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. The paper denied any conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
January 28, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2012