External beam radiotherapy dose response characteristics of 1127 men with prostate cancer treated in the PSA era

Alan Pollack, Lewis G. Smith, Andrew C. Von Eschenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Purpose: To characterize the relationship of radiotherapy dose to prostate cancer patient outcome, with an emphasis on the influence of pretreatment prognostic variables. Methods and Materials: The 1127 Stage T1-T4 prostate cancer patients examined were treated consecutively with definitive external beam radiotherapy at the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center from 1987 to 1997. All had a pretreatment prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. Treatment failure was defined as two consecutive PSA elevations on follow-up. There were 994 patients treated with a four-field box throughout to 60-70 Gy after a small reduction at 46 Gy and 161 treated with a six-field conformal boost after 46 Gy to 74-78 Gy. No patient received neoadjuvant or adjuvant androgen ablation. Median follow-up was 51.8 months. Results: Patients were divided into three radiotherapy dose groups consisting of ≤67 Gy (n = 500), >67-77 Gy (n = 495), and >77 Gy (n = 132). Relative to other prognostic factors, there were fewer patients treated to the highest dose level with a pretreatment PSA (PSAB) ≤4 or >20 ng/ml, Stage T3/T4 disease, or a Gleason score of 2-6. Actuarial 4-year freedom from biochemical failure (bNED) rates for the entire cohort were 54%, 71%, and 77% (p < 0.0001) for the low-, intermediate-, and high-dose groups. PSAB, palpable stage, and Gleason score were also highly significant. In Cox proportional hazards regression, dose (p < 0.0001 as a continuous or categorical variable) was an independent predictor of bNED, as were the other prognostic factors. Pairwise univariate comparisons showed that an increase in dose from ≤67 Gy to >67-77 Gy was associated with improved bNED rates for all PSAB (≤10 and >10), stage (T1/T2 and T3/T4), and Gleason score (2-6 and 7-10) subgroups tested. In contrast, the only prognostic group that benefited from raising dose from >67-77 Gy to >77 Gy was patients with a PSAB >10 ng/ml; although trends were noted for Stage T1/T2 and Gleason 2-6 patients. Patients with the combined features of a PSAB >10 ng/ml and Stage T1/T2 disease had 4-year bNED rates of 61% and 93% at the intermediate- and high-dose levels. A strongly significant linear association between dose (60-78 Gy) and 4-year actuarial bNED was demonstrated for patients with these intermediate-risk features. Conclusion: Prostate cancer dose response to external beam radiotherapy should be considered in the context of pretreatment prognostic factors. Our data indicate that, for favorable patients with a PSAB of ≤10 ng/ml, intermediate doses of >67-77 Gy provide the same rate of control as higher doses. However, longer follow-up may reveal a benefit to dose escalation >77 Gy, even in this favorable subset. Substantial and clinically relevant enhancements in bNED were seen at all dose levels for moderate-risk patients, such as those having a PSAB >10 ng/ml and Stage T1/T2 disease. Sustained bNED was not realized for high-risk patients, even using 78 Gy; these patients may be best treated with higher doses, whole pelvic irradiation, and/or androgen ablation plus radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-512
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Dose
  • Prostate-specific antigen
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiation


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