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February 25, 2017

Penn expert: Reduce radiation treatment by half for men with prostate cancer

A researcher at a Philadelphia health institution suggested this week that reform is needed to treat men with prostate cancer more efficiently.

On Tuesday, University of Pennsylvania associate professor Dr. Justin Bekelman claimed that shorter courses of radiation therapy than the current standard would provide similar health outcomes for patients while reducing costs. His expert opinion was published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics with co-author Dr. Robert Lee, a Duke University School of Medicine professor.

Currently, the industry standard for treating prostate cancer involves daily doses of radiation for up to nine weeks. Approximately a third of men with the disease undergo radiation therapy, which is the most common treatment for men older than 65.

Bekelman calls for a "high-quality, patient-friendly" plan that would reduce the length of treatment by nearly half. Moderate hypofractionation would be administered over four to five weeks.

“It is equivalent to longer radiation schedules in curing prostate cancer, has similar side effects, and is more convenient," Bekelman said. "Men can get back to their lives more quickly, which means less time away from the activities they enjoy and less time distracted by their cancer treatments.”

In addition to easing the burden on patients, the proposed regimen would significantly decrease costs for patients, payers and employers.

To support his claims, Bekelman analyzed randomized trials from three centers to examine 5,537 patients with mostly low and intermediate risk prostate cancer. The results showed that the shorter course of treatment yielded similar cancer control as well as similar side effects than the standard course.

“The field of radiation oncology should be recognized for technical advances in clinical care that have achieved safe, effective, curative treatment for prostate cancer in fewer weeks," Bekelman said.