Lateral rectal shielding reduces late rectal morbidity following high dose three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy for clinically localized prostate cancer: further evidence for a significant dose effect.
PURPOSE: Using conventional treatment methods for the treatment of clinically localized prostate cancer central axis doses must be limited to 65-70 Gray (Gy) to prevent significant damage to nearby normal tissues. A fundamental hypothesis of three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT) is that, by defining the target organ(s) accurately in three dimensions, it is possible to deliver higher doses to the target without a significant increase in normal tissue complications. This study examines whether this hypothesis holds true and whether a simple modification of treatment technique can reduce the incidence of late rectal morbidity in patients with prostate cancer treated with 3DCRT to minimum planning target volume (PTV) doses of 71-75 Gy. METHODS AND MATERIALS: The 257 patients with clinically localized prostate cancer who completed 3DCRT by December 31, 1993 and received a minimum PTV dose of 71-75 Gy are included in this report. The median follow-up time was 22 months (range: 4-67 months); 98% of patients had follow-up of longer than 12 months. The calculated dose at the center of the prostate was < 74 Gy in 19 patients, 74-76 Gy in 206 patients, and > 76 Gy in 32 patients. Late rectal morbidity was graded according to the Late Effects Normal Tissue (LENT) scoring system. Eighty-eight consecutive patients were treated with a rectal block added to the lateral fields. In these patients the posterior margin from the prostate to the block edge was reduced from the standard 15 to 5 mm for the final 10 Gy, which reduced the dose to portions of the anterior rectal wall by approximately 4-5 Gy. Estimates of rates for rectal morbidity were determined by Kaplan-Meier actuarial analysis. Differences in morbidity percentages were evaluated by the Pearson chi-square test. RESULTS: Grade 2-3 rectal morbidity developed in 46 out of 257 patients (18%) and in the majority of cases consisted of rectal bleeding. No patient has developed Grade 4 or 5 rectal morbidity. The actuarial rate of Grade 2-3 morbidity is 23% at 24 months and the median time to the development of Grade 2-3 complications is 15 months. A statistically significant dose effect is evident. The incidence of Grade 2-3 rectal morbidity increased as the dose at the center of the prostate increased (p = 0.05). In patients receiving minimum PTV doses of < or = 76 Gy the use of a rectal block significantly reduced the incidence of Grade 2-3 toxicity; 6 out of 88 (7%) with a block vs. 30 out of 137 (22%) without a block, (p = 0.003). CONCLUSION: The incidence of late rectal morbidity with 3DCRT to minimum PTV doses of 71-75 Gy is acceptable and to date no Grade 4-5 rectal morbidities have been observed. In our experience, higher doses to the center of the prostate are associated with an increased likelihood of developing Grade 2-3 rectal morbidity but treatment techniques that reduce the total dose to the anterior rectal wall have reduced the incidence of late rectal morbidity. If clinical studies indicate improved tumor control with minimum PTV doses above 71 Gy, then dose escalation above 76 Gy to the center of the prostate should be pursued cautiously with treatment techniques that limit the total dose to the anterior rectal wall.
Lee, WR; Hanks, GE; Hanlon, AL; Schultheiss, TE; Hunt, MA
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