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2 Prostate Studies: Proton Therapy Works Well

October 30, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Abdominal Imaging
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Those expensive proton beam therapy centers that have been springing up do indeed leave prostate cancer patients satisfied with their post-treatment quality of life, at least in terms of urinary and bowel function, according to a pair of new studies.

Andrew K. Lee, MD, led both studies. He’s associate professor in the department of radiation oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He prepared the findings for a poster session at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), which is currently defying megastorm Sandy in Boston.

Proton beam radiation therapy can be very precisely targeted, theoretically reducing the possibility of such dismaying side effects as incontinence and impotence. As Dr. Lee put it in an MD Anderson news release via Newswise:

As oncologists, we obviously want good cancer control outcomes, but we also want to ensure that patients maintain a strong sense of continued quality of life after treatment, which can be very personal and subjective for each patient.

One study involved more than 1,000 prostate cancer patients treated with proton therapy, with or without hormone therapy, at one of five proton therapy centers around the country. The second study included only patients treated at MD Anderson’s proton center.

Both studies showed good bowel and urinary function after proton therapy. In fact, the first study found no discernible difference in reported urinary and bowel function between the proton-treated prostate cancer patients and a control group of similar-age men who did not have prostate cancer. The urinary and bowel summary scores for the prostate patients were 89.8 out of 100 and 92.7/100, respectively. For the healthy control group, the respective scores were 89.5/100 and 92.4/100.

Sexual function scores, unfortunately, were lower in the prostate patients compared to the control group. “However, when further analyzing these scores,” Dr. Lee said, “it’s important to note that decreased sexual function is more often associated with those proton patients who also received hormone therapy, had higher Gleason scores, were older at time of treatment and/or greater years post treatment.”

Both advocates and skeptics of proton therapy have been awaiting data about whether it justifies its price tag. So far, so good.

Related seminar: UCSF Abdominal and Pelvic Imaging: CT/MR/US

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