Purpose: In our Phase II prostate cancer Adaptive Radiation Therapy (ART) study, the highest possible dose was selected on the basis of normal tissue tolerance constraints. We analyzed rectal toxicity rates in different dose levels and treatment groups to determine whether equivalent toxicity rates were achieved as hypothesized when the protocol was started.
Methods and materials: From 1999 to 2002, 331 patients with clinical stage T1 to T3, node-negative prostate cancer were prospectively treated with three-dimensional conformal adaptive RT. A patient-specific confidence-limited planning target volume was constructed on the basis of 5 CT scans and 4 sets of electronic portal images after the first 4 days of treatment. For each case, the rectum (rectal solid) was contoured in its entirety. The rectal wall was defined by use of a 3-mm wall thickness (median volume: 29.8 cc). The prescribed dose level was chosen using the following rectal wall dose constraints: (1) Less than 30% of the rectal wall volume can receive more than 75.6 Gy. (2) Less than 5% of the rectal wall can receive more than 82 Gy. Low-risk patients (PSA < 10, Stage < or = T2a, Gleason score < 7) were treated to the prostate alone (Group 1). All other patients, intermediate and high risk, where treated to the prostate and seminal vesicles (Group 2). The risk of chronic toxicity (NCI Common Toxicity Criteria 2.0) was assessed for the different dose levels prescribed. HIC approval was acquired for all patients. Median follow-up was 1.6 years.
Results: Grade 2 chronic rectal toxicity was experienced by 34 patients (10%) (9% experienced rectal bleeding, 6% experienced proctitis, 3% experienced diarrhea, and 1% experienced rectal pain) at a median interval of 1.1 year. Nine patients (3%) experienced grade 3 or higher chronic rectal toxicity (1 Grade 4) at a median interval of 1.2 years. The 2-year rates of Grade 2 or higher and Grade 3 or higher chronic rectal toxicity were 17% and 3%, respectively. No significant difference by dose level was seen in the 2-year rate of Grade 2 or higher chronic rectal toxicity. These rates were 27%, 15%, 14%, 17%, and 24% for dose levels equal to or less than 72, 73.8, 75.6, 77.4, and 79.2 Gy, respectively (p = 0.3). Grade 2 or higher chronic rectal bleeding was significantly greater for Group 2 than for Group 1, 17% vs. 8% (p = 0.035).
Conclusions: High doses (79.2 Gy) were safely delivered in selected patients by our adaptive radiotherapy process. Under the rectal dose-volume histogram constraints for the dose level selection, the risk of chronic rectal toxicity is similar among patients treated to different dose levels. Therefore, rectal chronic toxicity rates reflect the dose-volume cutoff used and are independent of the actual dose levels. On the other hand, a larger PTV will increase the rectal wall dose and chronic rectal toxicity rates. PTV volume and dose constraints should be defined, considering their potential benefit.