Brachytherapy for prostate cancer improved by computer model

Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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Last Updated: 2001-02-20 14:00:37 EST (Reuters Health) - For patients with prostate cancer, real-time computerized treatment planning for brachytherapy can reduce urethra and rectum morbidity by 80%, with a 65% to 95% improvement in tumor control probability, according to preliminary findings presented here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The computerized system generates a treatment plan in 5 to 15 minutes. This allows treatment planning to occur immediately before the procedure, using accurate imaging data on the morphology of the patient's prostate, instead of data that may be several weeks old owing to scheduling constraints, noted Dr. Eva K. Lee of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Imaging studies have shown that the computerized treatment planning system causes many more seeds to be placed in the prostate instead of in surrounding tissue, Dr. Lee said. The planning also enables the radiation oncologist to avoid placing seeds in the urethra and rectum, errors that can cause "hot spots" that may lead to incontinence.

Dr. Lee based her presentation on the results in 10 patients. Clinical trials of her system are ongoing at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The computerized treatment planning system is based on mixed integer linear programming, a collection of computational optimization techniques designed to find the best solution to a complex problem given a series of constraints, some of which may be conflicting or mutually exclusive. Such strategies have already been applied to many non-medical problems, such as scheduling crew members for airline flights, Dr. Lee said.