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Fox Chase Cancer Center: Prostate Cancer Treatment with IMRT Reduces Irradiation of Erectile Tissue

PHILADELPHIA (April 25, 2003) — Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is a major complication feared by men when undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Now, a new study conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center shows that the radiation delivered to erectile tissues can be reduced by as much as 60% without compromising treatment when using a highly sophisticated technology called IMRT.

IMRT allows for the very precise delivery of radiation by dividing each beam into 60-100 multiple segments. This maximizes the dose to the tumor where it is thickest and minimizes the dose near healthy tissue, enabling oncologists to administer high doses of radiation with extreme precision to the targeted prostate while sparing surrounding healthy organs.

"Erectile tissues commonly receive significant doses of radiation during treatment for prostate cancer because they lie very close to the prostate," said Mark Buyyounouski, MD, MS, a resident at Fox Chase and co-author of the study. "Our study shows that it is possible to continue to deliver the high doses of radiation necessary to treat prostate cancer while reducing the doses to erectile tissues." The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Radium Society, April 26-30 in Houston, Texas.

IMRT is the latest of a series of technologic advances designed to improve the precision of radiation therapy. Conventional radiotherapy uses a small number of radiation beams of uniform intensity. A more advanced approach called 3-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy or (3D-CRT), was the first in a new generation of treatment where several conventional beams are conformed to the irregular shape and size of the prostate. IMRT has greater conformal capability than 3D-CRT by allowing the beams to also vary in intensity.

"IMRT provides excellent control over the radiation dose we deliver," explained Buyyounouski. "In this study, we've utilized that control to design treatment plans that are highly conformal in order to spare erectile tissues.

"What benefit reducing the doses to erectile tissues has for erectile function will be the subject of a planned clinical trial," added Buyyounouski. "We hope this new technique will give men a greater likelihood for remaining potent following treatment for prostate cancer."

Other authors of the Fox Chase study include Eric M Horwitz, MD, Robert A Price, PhD, Alexandra L Hanlon, PhD, Robert G Uzzo, MD and Alan Pollack, MD, PhD.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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