Radiation therapy underutilised in prostate cancer patients in NSW

41 early deaths from prostate cancer could be prevented in NSW each year, if radiation therapy (RT) is given according to the evidence-based treatment guidelines, new research has shown.

Dr Gabriel Gabriel from UNSW led the research into radiation therapy use in prostate cancer and found that only 23 per cent of NSW prostate cancer patients received radiation therapy during the study period (2009-11). This is less than half the optimal uptake rate of 52 per cent. The study looked at data from approximately 20,000 NSW prostate cancer patients which means that over 5000 patients, who could have benefited from radiation therapy, did not receive it.

The research showed that as well as potentially saving lives, appropriate utilisation of radiation therapy could prevent an average of 466 “local failures” each year in NSW. This means that radiation therapy can, not only prevent treatment failure, but also prevent the spread of the localised tumour. The research also showed that patients who were less likely to receive RT were those who lived in higher socioeconomic areas (as surgery was the more common option for this group) and patients who lived further from the nearest RT facility.

Dr Gabriel concluded that there is a need to educate patients on the benefits of RT and referring clinicians need to consider radiation therapy as a proven option for their patients. This will help patients to make an informed decision on their treatment options.

Dr Gabriel’s research was presented at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s Annual Scientific Meeting in November and was welcomed by Society President, Professor Nick Pavlakis, who said “the research highlighted important opportunities to improve treatment for Australia’s most common cancer. If we can apply the evidence-based guidelines more consistently in practice, we have a clear opportunity to improve outcomes.”

By Linda Music