High dose-rate brachytherapy in the treatment of prostate cancer

Lucas C. Mendez, Gerard C. Morton


High dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy involves delivery of a high dose of radiation to the cancer with great sparing of surrounding organs at risk. Prostate cancer is thought to be particularly sensitive to radiation delivered at high dose-rate or at high dose per fraction. The rapid delivery and high conformality of dose results in lower toxicity than that seen with low dose-rate (LDR) implants. HDR combined with external beam radiotherapy results in higher cancer control rate than external beam only, and should be offered to eligible high and intermediate risk patients. While a variety of dose and fractionations have been used, a single 15 Gy HDR combined with 40–50 Gy external beam radiotherapy results in a disease-free survival of over 90% for intermediate risk and 80% for high risk. HDR monotherapy in two or more fractions (e.g., 27 Gy in 2 fractions or 34.5 Gy in 3) is emerging as a viable alternative to LDR brachytherapy for low and low-intermediate risk patients, and has less toxicity. The role of single fraction monotherapy to a dose of 19–20 Gy is evolving, with some con icting data to date. HDR should also be considered as a salvage approach for recurrent disease following previous external beam radiotherapy. A particular advantage of HDR in this setting is the ease of delivering focal treatments, which combined with modern imaging allows focal dose escalation with minimal toxicity. Trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS) based planning is replacing CT- based planning as the technique of choice as it minimizes or eliminates the need to move the patient between insertion, planning and treatment delivery, thus ensuring high accuracy and reproducibility of treatment.