Proton Boost May Thwart Prostate Cancer's Return
Boost of Targeted Radiation May Keep Prostate Cancer at Bay, Study Suggests
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 4, 2009 (Chicago) -- A boost of a highly targeted form of radiation
therapy may prevent prostate cancer from coming back, a study of nearly 400 men
Ten years after treatment, only 7% of men who received a boost of proton
therapy suffered a recurrence of their prostate cancer, compared with 31% of
men who received conventional doses of radiation.
"Importantly, there were no differences between the groups in terms of the
urinary or bowel function side effects" most commonly associated with radiation
therapy, says researcher Carl Rossi Jr., MD, associate professor of radiation
medicine at Loma Linda University in California.
"This first-of-its-kind study provides evidence of the benefits of [proton
beam therapy]. It is safe, effective, and has minimal side effects," he tells
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society
for Radiation Oncology.
Proton Beam Therapy for Prostate Cancer Spares Healthy Tissue
Proton beam therapy is a form of radiation treatment that uses protons
rather than conventional photon X-rays to treat certain types of cancer and
The beauty of the treatment, Rossi says, is that it spares normal, healthy
tissue from radiation.
"We have exquisite control over where the radiation goes [in the body]. And
because we can target the radiation right to the site of the tumor, we can use
much higher doses of radiation than we can with conventional therapy," he
"The Holy Grail of radiation oncology is to deliver more radiation to the
target and spare healthy tissues and organs," says Farzan Siddiqui, MD, PhD, a
radiation oncologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
"This is the promise we are seeing with proton therapy," says Siddiqui, who
was not involved with the research.
Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer Safe
A second study presented at the meeting confirmed the safety of the
Researchers followed more than 200 men for at least one year after they
received proton therapy for prostate cancer.
Only two men suffered serious side effects, and they both had conditions
that predisposed them to those problems, says Nancy Mendenhall, MD, a professor
of radiation oncology at the University of Florida in Jacksonville.
Only about six medical centers in the United States have proton therapy
capabilities, but several other facilities are opening in the near future, she
Although the treatment can be expensive -- up to 50% more than conventional
radiation therapy -- Mendenhall says she expects costs to come down as