News Release
 

October 26, 2010

CONTACT: Holly Auer
215-349-5659
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu

Penn Medicine - University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and University of Pennsylvania Health System


This release is available online at
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2010/10/imrt-minimizes-gi-side-effects/

Targeted Radiation Therapy Minimizes GI Side Effects for Prostate Cancer Patients, Penn Study Shows

SAN DIEGO -- Prostate cancer patients who receive intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) are less apt to suffer serious gastrointestinal complications following their treatment than those who receive three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (CRT), according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine. The study, which will be presented Nov. 1 at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) in San Diego, found that men who were treated with IMRT had fewer serious bowel complications, including painful rectal inflammation and bleeding (3.5 percent), compared to those who received CRT (4.5 percent).

“While radiotherapy is highly effective in treating prostate cancer, men may live with gastrointestinal, urinary and sexual side effects of treatment for many years. Minimizing these side effects and improving men’s quality of life after prostate cancer treatment is incredibly important,” says Justin Bekelman, MD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Our study offers important evidence to patients and their doctors that IMRT is associated with fewer gastrointestinal problems after treatment.”

CRT, the conventional form of radiation therapy, uses imaging studies including CT, MRI and PET scans to map the size, shape and location of tumors and the other organs in the area. IMRT is a more advanced version of CRT, offering a more targeted dose of radiation to the cancerous prostate gland. Since both forms of radiation pass all the way through the body after attacking their target, healthy tissue in the rectum and bladder may be damaged by the radiation beam, causing side effects during and after treatment. Though Medicare and private insurers typically cover both IMRT and CRT, little research has been conducted to show which treatment is associated with less side effects – an important consideration for men choosing among the various treatment options for the disease, which include observation, radiation, surgery, chemotherapy and hormonal therapies.

Using a Medicare database of men across the United States, Bekelman’s team studied 12,598 men 65 years and older who were diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer between 2002 and 2004. The authors followed the patients through 2006 and identified complications that were serious enough to require invasive procedures (including surgeries) and/or hospitalization. The findings revealed that among men who received IMRT, 18.8 percent had serious bowel complications during the two years after their treatment, compared to 22.5 percent of men treated with CRT. (Since specifics about each patient’s case could not be accounted for in the database, the authors note that some of the complications identified may have been caused by factors other than radiation treatment.) The researchers found no substantial difference in incidence of urinary or sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction, but Bekelman notes that since the study was limited to complications involving invasive surgical procedures, it may not capture the true prevalence of sexual side effects following treatment, for which patients may have sought less invasive remedies.

To view the study abstract, additional information about the study and Dr. Bekelman, visit ASTRO’s Annual Meeting Press Kit.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.