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Radiation vs. Advanced Prostate Cancer

Study Shows No Survival Advantage but Less Chance of Recurrence

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 15, 2006

Nov. 15, 2006 -- Radiation therapy after surgery for advanced prostate cancer may lessen the chance of cancer return, though it may not raise survival rates.

That's according to researchers including Ian Thompson Jr., MD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Thompson's team studied 425 men who had gotten surgery for advanced prostate cancer. The cancer was not metastatic (had not spread to other areas). The results appear in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers randomly assigned half of the patients to get radiation therapy. The other patients weren't assigned to get radiation therapy.

The men were followed for about 10 years, on average.

Survival rates were similar for both groups; radiation therapy showed no survival advantage.

About a third of the men who got radiation therapy died or were diagnosed with metastatic disease, compared with 43% of the men who weren't assigned to get radiation therapy.

The survival gap may have been due to chance, the study shows.

However, radiation therapy showed an advantage in preventing cancer's return.

The men who got radiation therapy were about half as likely to have their cancer return or to have a rise in their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels.

High PSA blood levels can be a sign of recurrent prostate cancer after treatment.

Complications such as rectal bleeding were more common with radiation therapy.

Other studies on radiation and advanced prostate cancer are under way.

Meanwhile, the researchers say their study "may provide guidance" for doctors and patients considering treatment options for advanced prostate cancer.

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SOURCES: Thompson, I. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 15, 2006; vol 296: pp 2329-2335. WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Prostate Cancer -- Treatment." News release, JAMA/Archives.

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