Purpose: To compare acute and late toxicities of high-dose radiation for prostate cancer delivered by either conventional three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) or intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
Materials and methods: Between September 1992 and February 1998, 61 patients with clinical stage T1c- T3 prostate cancer were treated with 3D-CRT and 171 with IMRT to a prescribed dose of 81 Gy. To quantitatively evaluate the differences between conventional 3D-CRT and IMRT, 20 randomly selected patients were planned concomitantly by both techniques and the resulting treatment plans were compared. Acute and late radiation-induced morbidity was evaluated in all patients and graded according to the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group toxicity scale.
Results: Compared with conventional 3D-CRT, IMRT improved the coverage of the clinical target volume (CTV) by the prescription dose and reduced the volumes of the rectal and bladder walls carried to high dose levels (P<0.01), indicating improved conformality with IMRT. Acute and late urinary toxicities were not significantly different for the two methods. However, the combined rates of acute grade 1 and 2 rectal toxicities and the risk of late grade 2 rectal bleeding were significantly lower in the IMRT patients. The 2-year actuarial risk of grade 2 bleeding was 2% for IMRT and 10% for conventional 3D-CRT (P<0.001).
Conclusions: The data demonstrate the feasibility and safety of high-dose IMRT for patients with localized prostate cancer and provide a proof-of-principle that this method improves dose conformality relative to tumor coverage and exposure to normal tissues.