A phase II trial for the optimisation of treatment position in the radiation therapy of prostate cancer

Louise O'Neill, John Armstrong, Steve Buckney, Mushabbab Assiri, Mairin Cannon, Ola Holmberg
Radiotherapy and Oncology 2008, 88 (1): 61-6

BACKGROUND: Patient immobilisation and position are important contributors to the reproducibility and accuracy of radiation therapy. In addition the choice of position can alter the external contour of the treated area and has the potential to alter the spatial relationship between internal organs. The published literature demonstrates variation in the use of the prone and supine position for prostate cancer radiation therapy. Previous investigators using different protocols for patient preparation, imaging and target volume definition have demonstrated changes in the calculated therapeutic ratio comparing the two positions. We did not use rigid immobilisation, laxatives, rectal catheters or bladder voiding and assessed if in the prone position would cause a reduction of the dose to the rectum. We performed a prospective comparison of the two positions in 26 patients to determine if the differences in the spatial relation between the rectum and the planning target volume (PTV) would impact on dose-volume histograms to organs at risk (OAR). We also determined if any such improvement might permit dose escalation.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-six patients with clinically localized prostate cancer consented to participate in this study. All patients underwent a planning CT scan in both the prone and supine treatment positions. The PTV and OAR were drawn on each set of scans by one of the investigators. The PTV included the prostate and seminal vesicles with a 1cm margin except posteriorly where this margin was reduced to 5mm. The outer circumference of the bladder, rectal wall, small bowel (when present) was drawn along with femoral heads. 3D conformal treatment plans were computed using Helax TMS version 6.1B. A 3-field treatment technique was employed with energy of 10/15 MV. The prescribed dose was 70 Gy and the PTV was encompassed by the 95% isodose and the maximum dose was always less than 107%. Cumulative dose-volume histograms were calculated for the PTV, rectum, bladder, femoral heads and small bowel (when present). These non-uniform histograms for both the prone and supine treatment positions were transformed into uniform ones using the effective volume method [Kutcher J, Burman C. Calculation of probability factors for non-uniform normal tissue irradiation: the effective volume method. Med Phys 1987;14:487].

RESULTS: Twenty-one of the 26 (80%) patients had a lower effective volume of rectum irradiated if the prone instead of the supine treatment position was used. The median value of the effective volume in the supine treatment position was 31.74 Gy while the median value in the prone position was 22.48 Gy. The dose escalation was applied to the patients in the prone treatment position until the effective volume for the rectum was the same as that in the supine position. The range of dose escalation possible for these patients was 0.1-7.9 Gy. These patients could potentially have the dose escalated from the prescribed dose of 70 Gy for the supine position without any increase in side effects. For the five patients where no potential benefit was found when changing treatment position, only two patients displayed a significant (>1 Gy) advantage for the supine treatment position. Twenty-one of the 26 patients also showed an advantage for the prone treatment position in relation to bladder dose.

CONCLUSION: The use of the prone position reduced the dose to the unprepared rectum and unvoided bladder in the majority of cases. It should be considered particularly in cases where large posterior seminal vesicles cause significant overlap between the planning target volume and the rectum.

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