Contemporary role of radiotherapy in the management of penile cancer
Penile cancer is a rare clinical entity that contributes to significant patient morbidity and mortality. Human papilloma virus (HPV) plays an important role in the carcinogenesis of penile squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), is associated with improved clinical outcomes, and is predictive for response to treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Historically, treatment consisted of radical surgery with partial or total penectomy. While effective for local control, surgical resection can impart significant physical, psychological and sexual dysfunction for afflicted men. Organ preservation strategies offer significant quality of life advantages over standard surgery and can be utilized without compromising oncological control. As an alternative or adjunct to surgical resection, radiation therapy can be used for organ preservation strategies successfully in up to 70% of patients. A variety of treatment techniques can be employed depending on the location and burden of disease. Limited disease can be amenable to treatment with interstitial brachytherapy, surface mold plesiotherapy or external beam radiotherapy. For locally advanced presentations, or for patients not amenable to surgical resection, excellent clinical outcomes can be achieved using a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Here, we discuss the management of penile SCC using modern radiation therapy treatment techniques, the expected clinical outcomes for organ preservation, as well as the management of side-effects and toxicities. While large randomized trials are being developed, the management of penile cancer is informed from the management of other of other anogenital malignancies, which we also review.