Researchers develop new approach to radiation for prostate cancer

MANHASSET, NY – Louis Potters, MD, deputy physician-in-chief and chairman of radiation medicine at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, and professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, has demonstrated the safety and improved efficacy of increased dosage of radiation when treating prostate cancer, according to a new study published in the February issue of The International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. Dr. Potters and his co-researchers aimed to solve the unanswered question of what is the optimal radiation dose that should be given to low and intermediate-risk patients.

The investigators from Northwell Health’s Cancer Institute and Department of Radiation Medicine focused specifically on “stereotactic body radiation therapy” (SBRT), a form of radiation therapy that delivers precise amounts of radiation to cancer cells while attempting to minimize damage to healthy tissue. The researchers and clinicians emphasized that with few long-term studies, the cure rate with this technique – as compared to other prostate cancer treatments – remains questionable.

“It is recognized that stereotactic radiation is effective for treating many cancers such as lung and brain tumors. However, for prostate cancer, we are still searching for the most effective dose of radiation that is both healing and safe,” said Dr. Potters, who collaborated with clinician-researchers Zaker Rana, MD, Lucille Lee, MD, and Brett W. Cox, MD, from the Department of Radiation Medicine. “Our study shows that we can be using higher doses than the current standard to achieve greater chances of cure.”

The study prospectively looked at using several different radiation doses. Before using higher quantities, each subgroup of patients was assessed to make sure that the treatment was tolerated. SBRT uses five treatments of radiation as compared to conventional radiation that may require up to 45 treatments or seed implant, which is limited to men with medium-to-small prostate glands.

The investigators were able to reach the highest dose level safely with little to no difference in toxicity as compared to lower doses, and a dramatic difference was shown as a result of PSA value, the ultimate marker for treatment success.

“This study has the potential to be game-changer for men and will serve as the foundation for future studies that will impact the current standard of care,” said Richard Barakat, MD, physician-in-chief and director of the Cancer Institute and Feinstein Institute professor. “We are excited to see what Dr. Potters’ next chapter of research will bring in the battle against prostate cancer.”

While the researchers note that additional study is necessary to validate their data, they say this step serves as a foundation for future work looking at higher than standard radiation volume used today.

“With continued, leading-edge research, Dr. Potters’ discoveries may alter how clinicians use stereotactic radiation and treat prostate cancer,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

About the Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, nearly 700 outpatient facilities and more than 13,600 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 68,000 employees – 16,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.

About the Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the Feinstein Institute includes 4,000 researchers and staff who are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit FeinsteinInstitute.org.

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