Proton therapy versus intensity modulated x-ray therapy in the treatment of prostate cancer: Estimating secondary cancer risks

Jonas David Fontenot, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


External beam radiation therapy is used to treat nearly half of the more than 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. During a radiation therapy treatment, healthy tissues in the path of the therapeutic beam are exposed to high doses. In addition, the whole body is exposed to a low-dose bath of unwanted scatter radiation from the pelvis and leakage radiation from the treatment unit. As a result, survivors of radiation therapy for prostate cancer face an elevated risk of developing a radiogenic second cancer. Recently, proton therapy has been shown to reduce the dose delivered by the therapeutic beam to normal tissues during treatment compared to intensity modulated x-ray therapy (IMXT, the current standard of care). However, the magnitude of stray radiation doses from proton therapy, and their impact on this incidence of radiogenic second cancers, was not known. The risk of a radiogenic second cancer following proton therapy for prostate cancer relative to IMXT was determined for 3 patients of large, median, and small anatomical stature. Doses delivered to healthy tissues from the therapeutic beam were obtained from treatment planning system calculations. Stray doses from IMXT were taken from the literature, while stray doses from proton therapy were simulated using a Monte Carlo model of a passive scattering treatment unit and an anthropomorphic phantom. Baseline risk models were taken from the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII report. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to characterize the uncertainty of risk calculations to uncertainties in the risk model, the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) of neutrons for carcinogenesis, and inter-patient anatomical variations. The risk projections revealed that proton therapy carries a lower risk for radiogenic second cancer incidence following prostate irradiation compared to IMXT. The sensitivity analysis revealed that the results of the risk analysis depended only weakly on uncertainties in the risk model and inter-patient variations. Second cancer risks were sensitive to changes in the RBE of neutrons. However, the findings of the study were qualitatively consistent for all patient sizes and risk models considered, and for all neutron RBE values less than 100.

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Recommended Citation

Fontenot, Jonas David, "Proton therapy versus intensity modulated x-ray therapy in the treatment of prostate cancer: Estimating secondary cancer risks" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3312620.