Intensity-modulated radiotherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Authors: Hummel S, Simpson EL, Hemingway P, Stevenson MD, Rees A

Journal: Health Technology Assessment Volume: 14 Issue: 47

Publication date: October 2010



Hummel S, Simpson EL, Hemingway P, Stevenson MD, Rees A.Intensity-modulated radiotherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer: a systematic review and economic evaluation. Health Technol Assess 2010;14(47)

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Prostate cancer (PC) is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Radiotherapy (RT) is a recognised treatment for PC and high-dose conformal radiotherapy (CRT) is the recommended standard of care for localised or locally advanced tumours. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) allows better dose distributions in RT.


This report evaluates the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of IMRT for the radical treatment of PC.

Data sources

The following databases were searched: MEDLINE (1950-present), EMBASE (1980-present), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (1982-present), BIOSIS (1985-present), the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1991-present), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (1991-present), the Science Citation Index (1900-present) and the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination databases (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, NHS Economic Evaluation Database, Health Technology Assessment) (1991-present). MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations was searched to identify any studies not yet indexed on MEDLINE. Current research was identified through searching the UK Clinical Research Network, National Research Register archive, the Current Controlled Trials register and the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Register. In addition, abstracts of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, and European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology conferences were browsed.

Review methods

A systematic literature review of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of IMRT in PC was conducted. Comparators were three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3DCRT) or radical prostatectomy. Outcomes sought were overall survival, biochemical [prostate-specific antigen (PSA)] relapse-free survival, toxicity and health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Fifteen electronic bibliographic databases were searched in January 2009 and updated in May 2009, and the reference lists of relevant articles were checked. Studies only published in languages other than English were excluded. An economic model was developed to examine the cost-effectiveness of IMRT in comparison to 3DCRT. Four scenarios were modelled based on the studies which reported both PSA survival and late gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity. In two scenarios equal PSA survival was assumed for IMRT and 3DCRT, the other two having greater PSA survival for the IMRT cohort. As there was very limited data on clinical outcomes, the model estimates progression to clinical failure and PC death from the surrogate outcome of PSA failure.


No randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of IMRT versus 3DCRT in PC were available, but 13 non-randomised studies comparing IMRT with 3DCRT were found, of which five were available only as abstracts. One abstract reported overall survival. Biochemical relapse-free survival was not affected by treatment group, except where there was a dose difference between groups, in which case higher dose IMRT was favoured over lower dose 3DCRT. Most studies reported an advantage for IMRT in GI toxicity, attributed to increased conformality of treatment compared with 3DCRT, particularly with regard to volume of rectum treated. There was some indication that genitourinary toxicity was worse for patients treated with dose escalated IMRT, although most studies did not find a significant treatment effect. HRQoL improved for both treatment groups following radiotherapy, with any group difference resolved by 6 months after treatment. No comparative studies of IMRT versus prostatectomy were identified. No comparative studies of IMRT in PC patients with bone metastasis were identified.


The strength of the conclusions of this review are limited by the lack of RCTs, and any comparative studies for some patient groups.


The comparative data of IMRT versus 3DCRT seem to support the theory that higher doses, up to 81 Gy, can improve biochemical survival for patients with localised PC, concurring with data on CRT. The data also suggest that toxicity can be reduced by increasing conformality of treatment, particularly with regard to GI toxicity, which can be more easily achieved with IMRT than 3DCRT. Whether differences in GI toxicity between IMRT and 3DCRT are sufficient for IMRT to be cost-effective is uncertain, depending on the difference in incidence of GI toxicity, its duration and the cost difference between IMRT and 3DCRT.

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