The role of salvage brachytherapy for local relapse after external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer

Steven A. Tisseverasinghe, Juanita M. Crook


Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer amongst men. For localized disease, there currently exist several reliable treatment modalities including surgery, radiotherapy and brachytherapy. Our growing understanding of this disease indicates that local control plays a very important role in prevention of subsequent dissemination. Many improvements to external beam radiotherapy over recent years have decreased toxicity and improved outcomes, but nonetheless, local relapse remains common. Many salvage options exist for locally recurrent prostate cancer, but are rarely offered, partly because of the fear of toxicity. Many men with isolated local recurrence therefore do not receive potentially curative second line treatment and are instead treated with palliative androgen suppression. Selection plays an important role in determining which individuals are likely to benefit from salvage. Those at high risk of pre-existing micro-metastatic disease despite negative staging scans are unlikely to benefit. Prostate brachytherapy has evolved over the more than 3 decades of experience. Modern techniques allow more precise tumor localization and dose delivery. Better understanding of dosimetric parameters can distinguish optimal from suboptimal implants. Salvage brachytherapy can be an effective treatment for locally recurrent prostate cancer after prior external beam radiotherapy. We review the literature pertaining to both low dose rate (LDR) and high dose rate (HDR) salvage brachytherapy and discuss patient selection, optimal dose, treatment volume and toxicity avoidance.