Radiation Alone Can Prolong Life for Prostate Cancer Patients
July 14, 2000 -- When it comes to surviving prostate cancer, a
man's best bet may be high-dose radiation. In the first study to show such a
survival advantage, researchers found that patients who had received the
highest doses of radiation -- because they had the most aggressive tumors --
were the most likely to be alive and disease free a decade or so after
Prostate cancer is more common in men over 50. Because the
disease progresses slowly, even those with metastatic, or spreading, tumors are
likely to die of old age or another health condition. Even so, the American
Cancer Society reports that in 1999, 37,000 American men lost their lives to
the disease, making it the second leading cause of cancer death among men in
Now, with this study, comes "the first evidence that
radiation treatment alone can translate into an improvement in survival, and
that's the bottom line," lead researcher Richard Valicenti, MD, tells
WebMD. Valicenti is assistant professor and director of clinical research at
Bodine Center for Cancer Treatment at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in
The researchers looked at nearly 1,500 men (with an average age
of 69 years) who had undergone radiation therapy for prostate cancer that had
not spread. The men with the most aggressive, high-risk cancers, who'd received
the highest doses of radiation, were most likely to be alive and cancer-free 10
years after receiving treatment.
And, says Valicenti, it looks like the survival benefits of
radiation may apply to patients with less aggressive prostate cancers as well.
Because the disease grows so slowly, that benefit just takes longer to see,
Although the radiation dosages in this research are
"woefully low" compared to today's standards, says Lewis Smith, MD, who
reviewed the paper for WebMD, "the findings allow us for the first time to
say that there's a survival advantage for patients treated with a higher
dosages of radiation. [It shows that] we can prolong their lives."
According to Smith, an assistant professor of radiation
oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston,
"before this, nothing had shown a survival advantage with radiation."
Several studies had shown that higher doses of radiation could keep the blood
measurement known as PSA -- the infamous marker of prostate cancer -- from
rising, he says, "and we'd thought that would equate with survival.
Now, we know that that is the case."
What the study shows, says Valicenti, is that "local
radiation, in itself, is effective in reducing the risk of dying from prostate
cancer," says Valicenti. His team's findings appear in the Journal of
For more information from WebMD, visit the Diseases and
Conditions Prostate Cancer
- Prostate cancer, responsible for 37,000 deaths last year, is the second
leading cause of cancer deaths among American men.
- A new study has shown that radiation treatments alone can prolong the life
of men who have prostate cancer that hasn't spread to any other parts of the
- This is the first evidence that radiation alone can improve survival of
prostate cancer patients. Higher doses of radiation showed even more benefit
that lower doses.