The evolution of brachytherapy for prostate cancer
Brachytherapy (BT), using low-dose-rate (LDR) permanent seed implantation or high-dose-rate (HDR) temporary source implantation, is an acceptable treatment option for select patients with prostate cancer of any risk group. The benefits of HDR-BT over LDR-BT include the ability to use the same source for other cancers, lower operator dependence, and — typically — fewer acute irritative symptoms. By contrast, the benefits of LDR-BT include more favourable scheduling logistics, lower initial capital equipment costs, no need for a shielded room, completion in a single implant, and more robust data from clinical trials. Prospective reports comparing HDR-BT and LDR-BT to each other or to other treatment options (such as external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) or surgery) suggest similar outcomes. The 5-year freedom from biochemical failure rates for patients with low-risk, intermediate-risk, and high-risk disease are >85%, 69–97%, and 63–80%, respectively. Brachytherapy with EBRT (versus brachytherapy alone) is an appropriate approach in select patients with intermediate-risk and high-risk disease. The 10-year rates of overall survival, distant metastasis, and cancer-specific mortality are >85%, <10%, and <5%, respectively. Grade 3–4 toxicities associated with HDR-BT and LDR-BT are rare, at <4% in most series, and quality of life is improved in patients who receive brachytherapy compared with those who undergo surgery.