- 38 Gy in 4 fractions (n=319) – 1.29 relative BED
- 24 Gy in 2 fractions (n=79) – 1.00 relative BED
- 27 Gy in 2 fractions (n=96) – 1.25 relative BED
After 5.5 years median followup for schedule #1, 3.5 years for schedule #2, and 2.5 years for schedule #3, the toxicity outcomes were as follows:
- No difference in clinical outcomes (cancer control) among the 3 treatment schedules.
- Acute (appearing in less than 6 months) and chronic (appearing 6 months or more after treatment) grade ≥2 genitourinary (GU) and gastrointestinal (GI) side effects were similar for all treatment schedules.
- Grade 2 acute GU toxicities:
o Frequency/urgency: 14%
o Dysuria (painful urination): 6%
o Retention: 7%
o Incontinence: 1.5%
o Hematuria (blood in urine): 1.5%
- · Grade 2 chronic GU toxicities:
o Frequency/urgency: 20%
o Dysuria (painful urination): 7%
o Retention: 4% (Urethral stricture: 2%)
o Incontinence: 2%
o Hematuria (blood in urine): 7%
- · There was minimal grade 3 GU toxicity
- · Grade 2 acute GI toxicities:
o Diarrhea: 1%
o Rectal pain/tenesmus: <1%
o Rectal bleeding: 0%
o Proctitis: <1%
- · Grade 2 chronic GI toxicities:
o Diarrhea: 1%
o Rectal pain/tenesmus: 0.5%
o Rectal bleeding: 2%
o Proctitis: 1%
- · No Grade 3 or higher GI toxicity
- · Time to maximal appearance of symptoms was similar across treatment schedules
- · They did not report ED rates, which are typically low for HDR-BT.
Given the equivalence of cancer control and toxicity with treatment schedule, and the lack of any effect due to increasing the biologically equivalent dose, there seems to be little basis, other than cost and convenience, for choosing among these treatment schedules, at least with the available follow-up reported here.
Aspects of treatment scheduling that affect the convenience of HDR-BT are the number of implantations of the catheters, and the time frame in which the fractions are delivered. William Beaumont Hospital uses a single implantation of catheters for all treatment schedules. Schedule #1 involves a longer (overnight) hospital stay because they wait for several hours between fractions for healthy tissue to recover. It also means that anesthesia must be administered over a longer period.
The California Endocurietherapy Center at UCLA has typically used a different protocol. They deliver 42 Gy in 6 fractions, with 3 fractions delivered one week and 3 fractions delivered a week later. This involves 2 overnight hospital stays, with anesthesia each time. Recently, they added a protocol where they deliver 27 Gy in 2 fractions (similar to schedule #3), but those fractions are still inserted a week apart. While this is certainly a cost reduction for the patient, who can now be treated as an outpatient, the patient is inconvenienced by having to go through the full procedure twice. It is a convenience for the treatment team that no longer has to attend the patient over an extended timeframe.
The William Beaumont Hospital experience demonstrates that HDR-BT treatment schedules can be constructed so as to lower costs and increase convenience for patients and doctors, without sacrificing cancer control or quality of life.