Study Finds New Prostate Cancer Therapy Comes with Little Benefit, More Side Effects

Study Finds New Prostate Cancer Therapy Comes with Little Benefit, More Side EffectsA new study has brought into question the value of proton therapy, which has recently been receiving attention as an expensive new radiation treatment for patients with prostate cancer, HealthDay reports.

The study also found that those who receive the treatment were also more likely to suffer major gastrointestinal side effects, the researchers noted, and there also did not appear to be an added benefit from the therapy.

Study co-author Dr. Ronald Chen, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina, stated more research should be conducted to decide whether the therapy has any value.

"The bottom-line message is: Let's study more, let's do a clinical trial," Chen said. "Patients and physicians should be cautious about new therapies and look for research data before they switch to a newer treatment."

Around the country, healthcare providers have been building proton centers, which cost about $150 million each. Since more of the machines have been installed, physicians have been more inclined to convince patients to undergo the therapy, Chen said.

In the study, the team of researchers analyzed medical records of nearly 13,000 men who received three forms of prostate cancer therapy: Conformal radiation, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton therapy. Results showed that patients who received IMRT, compared to conformal therapy, were 9 percent less likely to have gastrointestinal side effects and 22 percent less likely to report the rare side effect of hip fracture. These patients were also 19 percent less likely to need further treatment.

When IMRT was compared with proton therapy, those who received IMRT had a 34 percent lower risk of experiencing gastrointestinal side effects. Chen also noted proton therapy costs about $50,000 per patients – twice as much as IMRT.

Dr. Louis Potters, chair of the department of radiation medicine at North Shore University Hospital, said the new findings should make people think twice about proton therapy.

"Proton therapy is marketed as something that's new, big and expensive. In the eyes of the public, it's easy to become wowed by proton beams," Potters said. "But it might not be better and may be adverse in terms of side effects."

According to the National Library of Medicine, prostate cancer treatment typically depends on what stage the cancer is in when it is discovered, and the rate at which the cancer is advancing is also taken into consideration.