Results from a 14-year radiotherapy study published today show that men can get the same benefit from a lower dose of radiotherapy with 17 fewer hospital visits.

21 Jun 2016

Results published today from a long-running trial have shown larger 'bursts' of radiotherapy treatment over a shorter time-frame can give men with localised prostate cancer the same treatment benefits as lower bursts over a longer time.

Researchers on the CHHiP trial at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital wanted to test whether they could improve the way radiotherapy is delivered to the patient to make it a shorter, more convenient process – but without compromising how effectively they treated the cancer, or making the side effects any worse for the men being treated.

They wanted to measure what effect this would have on controlling the cancer, as well as the side effects experienced by the men

Normal radiotherapy treatment involves delivering a total amount of radiation (74 Gy) in 37 bursts of treatment, which takes almost seven-and-a-half weeks in total. In this trial, the researchers tested whether they could instead give a lower total amount of radiation (60 Gy) in fewer treatment bursts, but with a higher dose in each burst. They wanted to measure what effect this would have on how well they controlled the cancer, as well as on the side effects experienced by the men on the trial.

All the men in this trial received a particularly focused type of radiotherapy called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, which makes it possible to target just the tumour with high doses of radiation and reduce the impact on the rest of the prostate and surrounding tissues.

There were three groups of men in this trial. Some received the standard dose over 37 treatment bursts, others received a lower dose over 20 bursts, and others a still lower dose over 19 bursts.

Each burst of treatment requires a visit to the hospital, so this can be a fairly intense and exhausting treatment regime. Constant trips to the hospital can only add to the fatigue that some men experience as a side effect of radiotherapy, so reducing the number of visits wouldn’t just be beneficial for the hospital administration, but also for the men undergoing treatment.

Men could make 17 fewer hospital trips for treatment, with the added bonus of saving the NHS much needed money

We’ve talked about this trial before, when the research group showed that changing the way they deliver radiotherapy treatment in this way had no effect on the side effects that men experienced from treatment – they remained low over all treatment groups.

Today’s results show that giving a lower total dose of radiotherapy over 20 treatment bursts also had no negative effect on how well the cancer was controlled. The researchers recommend that this should be adopted into standard practice as soon as possible, and we agree with them. This really is a no-brainer. Men could make 17 fewer hospital trips for treatment, with the added bonus of saving the NHS much-needed money.

Karen Sumpter, our Clinical Lead, says: "One of the challenges for men receiving radiotherapy is the exhausting impact and cost of travelling to and from hospital for regular treatment. This could make some men reluctant to choose radiotherapy as a treatment altogether.

"However, the results of this research reveal that men can get the same benefit from radiotherapy with fewer visits, which could swing the decision for many, as well as providing a more cost effective solution for the NHS. We would like to see this new regime rolled out at radiotherapy centres throughout the UK as quickly as possible."

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