Purpose: There is an evolving role for combining radiotherapy (RT) with gene therapy in the management of prostate cancer. However, the clinical results of this combined approach are much needed. The preliminary results addressing the safety of this Phase I-II study combining RT and gene therapy (adenovirus/herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase gene/valacyclovir with or without hormonal therapy) in the treatment of prostate cancer have been previously reported. We now report the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) response and biopsy data.
Methods and materials: This trial was composed of three separate arms. Arm A consisted of low-risk patients (Stage T1-T2a, Gleason score <7, pretreatment PSA <10 ng/mL) treated with combined RT-gene therapy. A mean dose of 76 Gy was delivered to the prostate with intensity-modulated RT. They also received adenovirus/herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase/valacyclovir gene therapy. Arm B consisted of high-risk patients (Stage T2b-T3, Gleason score >6, pretreatment PSA level >10 ng/mL) treated with combined RT-gene therapy and hormonal therapy (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonist [30-mg Lupron, 4-month depot] and an antiandrogen [flutamide, 250 mg t.i.d. for 14 days]). Arm C consisted of patients with Stage D1 (positive pelvic lymph nodes) who received the same regimen as Arm B with the addition of 45 Gy to the pelvic lymphatics. PSA determination and biopsy were performed before, during, and after treatment. The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology consensus definition (three consecutive rises in PSA level) was used to denote PSA failure.
Results: Fifty-nine patients (29 in Arm A, 26 in Arm B, and 4 in Arm C) completed the trial. The median age was 68 years (range, 39-85 years). The median follow-up for the entire group was 13.5 months (range, 1.4-27.8 months). Only Arm A patients were observed to have an increase in PSA on Day 14. The PSA then declined appropriately. All patients in Arm A (median follow-up, 13.4 months) and Arm B (median follow-up, 13.9 months) had biochemical control at last follow-up. Three patients in Arm C (with pretreatment PSA of 335, 19.6, and 2.5 ng/mL and a combined Gleason score of 8, 9, and 9 involving all biopsy cores) had biochemical failure at 3, 3, and 7.7 months. Two patients had distant failure in bone and 1 patient in the para-aortic lymph nodes outside the RT portal. Six to twelve prostate biopsies performed in these 3 patients revealed no evidence of residual carcinoma. In Arm A, biopsy showed no evidence of carcinoma in 66.7% (18 of 27), 92.3% (24 of 26), 91.7% (11 of 12), 100% (8 of 8), and 100% (6 of 6) at 6 weeks, 4 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months after treatment, respectively. In Arm B, no evidence of carcinoma on biopsy was noted in 96% (24 of 25), 90.5% (19 of 21), 100% (14 of 14), 100% (7 of 7), and 100% (2 of 2), respectively, in the same interval after treatment.
Conclusion: This is the first reported trial of its kind in the field of prostate cancer that aims to expand the therapeutic index of RT by combining it with in situ gene therapy. The initial transient PSA rise in the Arm A patients may have been a result of local immunologic response or inflammation elicited by in situ gene therapy. Additional investigation to elucidate the mechanisms is needed. Hormonal therapy may have obliterated this rise in Arm B and C patients. The biopsy data were encouraging and appeared to show no evidence of malignancy earlier than historical data. Combined RT, short-course hormonal therapy, and in situ therapy appeared to provide good locoregional control but inadequate systemic control in patients with positive pelvic lymph nodes. Longer term use of hormonal therapy in addition to gene therapy and RT has been adopted for this group of patients to maximize both locoregional and systemic control.