Comparison of radiation side-effects of conformal and conventional radiotherapy in prostate cancer: a randomised trial

Lancet. 1999 Jan 23;353(9149):267-72. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(98)05180-0.


Background: Radical radiotherapy is commonly used to treat localised prostate cancer. Late chronic side-effects limit the dose that can be given, and may be linked to the volume of normal tissues irradiated. Conformal radiotherapy allows a smaller amount of rectum and bladder to be treated, by shaping the high-dose volume to the prostate. We assessed the ability of this new technology to lessen the risk of radiation-related effects in a randomised controlled trial of conformal versus conventional radiotherapy.

Methods: We recruited men with prostate cancer for treatment with a standard dose of 64 Gy in daily 2 Gy fractions. The men were randomly assigned conformal or conventional radiotherapy treatment. The primary endpoint was the development of late radiation complications (> 3 months after treatment) measured with the Radiation Therapy and Oncology Group (RTOG) score. Indicators of disease (cancer) control were also recorded.

Findings: In the 225 men treated, significantly fewer men developed radiation-induced proctitis and bleeding in the conformal group than in the conventional group (37 vs 56% > or = RTOG grade 1, p=0.004; 5 vs 15% > or = RTOG grade 2, p=0.01). There were no differences between groups in bladder function after treatment (53 vs 59% > or = grade 1, p=0.34; 20 vs 23% > or = grade 2, p=0.61). After median follow-up of 3.6 years there was no significant difference between groups in local tumour control (conformal 78% [95% CI 66-86], conventional 83% [69-90]).

Interpretation: Conformal techniques significantly lowered the risk of late radiation-induced proctitis after radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Widespread introduction of these radiotherapy treatment methods is appropriate. Our results are the basis for dose-escalation studies to improve local tumour control.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proctitis / etiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal / adverse effects*
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal / methods