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Study Casts Doubt on Value of Pricey Prostate Cancer Therapy
Date:4/17/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- A new study raises questions about the value of proton therapy, an expensive new kind of radiation treatment, in patients with prostate cancer.

Those who received the treatment instead of the standard radiation therapy were more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal side effects, the researchers found. There also did not appear to be any extra benefit for those who got proton therapy.

Study co-author Dr. Ronald Chen, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, didn't go as far as to say proton therapy is a waste of money. But he did suggest that more research needs to be done to confirm its 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."

A variety of radiation treatments have become available to prostate cancer patients in recent years.

Up until about 12 years ago, conformal radiation treatment was commonly used. It relied on pinpointed X-rays to kill the cancer in the prostate while trying to avoid harming nearby organs, said Dr. Louis Potters, chair of the department of radiation medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Scientists then developed a more sophisticated therapy called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) that aims to do an even better job of avoiding radiation exposure to organs that are near the prostate. As of 2008, 96 percent of patients who received one of the two treatments got the newer therapy; that's a huge change from 2000, when hardly any received IMRT.

Meanwhile, proton therapy appeared on the scene. In proton therapy, physicians try to kill cancer with a radioactive particle.
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