Radiation therapy to the primary in metastatic prostate cancer: palliation only or altering tumor biology?

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Purpose of review

Despite improvement in systemic treatment, the prognosis of men with de novo metastatic prostate cancer remains poor. Treating the local disease may not only reduce the occurrence of local urologic symptoms, but also slow the metastatic process, either by reducing the seeding from the primary tumor or by altering the microenvironment and thus minimizing the formation of new metastatic sites.

Recent findings

Retrospective and population-based studies have suggested that the addition of local treatment to systemic therapy may improve survival in this patient group. The aim of this review is to discuss the biologic rationale of such an approach, present and discuss the current available evidence, with a focus on radiation-based treatments. It is key to also address the issue of patient selection as not all patients with metastatic prostate cancer will benefit from the treatment of the primary tumor.


Retrospective and population-based research suggests a survival benefit of prostatectomy or radiotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer patients. Clinical trials evaluating the role of prostate radiotherapy in the metastatic setting are ongoing.

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