Given the poor outcomes observed with radical prostatectomy (RP) and external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT), some in the urologic community contend that high-risk disease is not curable with currently available treatment strategies.[1,2] In fact, there is a growing contingent of clinicians who advocate the use of chemotherapy in conjunction with RP. With the established efficacy of brachytherapy, these efforts are likely excessive.
Radiation is often considered immunosuppressive, an activity that is most likely a result of the complex interplay of hormesis and the abscopal effect. The abscopal effect, also called the “distant bystander” effect, is a paradoxical effect of radiation on cellular systems whereby local radiation may have an antitumor effect on tumors distant from the site of radiation.
The field of cancer immunotherapy, once the sole purview of immunology, has evolved toward the harnessing of newly described properties of ionizing radiation (IR). Cancer immunotherapy now includes the combination of established cytotoxic modalities with immune manipulations, as vaccines alone are unlikely to succeed at curing bulky, established tumors.
Radiation therapy (RT) and immunotherapy of cancer both date back more than 100 years, and yet, because radiation was often considered immunosuppressive, there had been little enthusiasm for combining them until recently. Immunotherapy has an established role in the treatment of some cancers—superficial bladder cancer treated with bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), renal cell carcinoma and melanoma treated with interferon and interluekin (IL)-2 (Proleukin), and breast cancer and lymphoma treated with monoclonal antibodies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) and rituximab (Rituxan), which partly function through antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity.
In the article entitled "Interstitial Brachytherapy Should Be Standard of Care for Treatment of High-Risk Prostate Cancer," Merrick, Wallner, and Butler once again make the case for interstitial brachytherapy as a primary treatment for prostate cancer (see their earlier article, "Permanent Prostate Brachytherapy: Is Supplemental External-Beam Radiation Therapy Necessary?" in ONCOLOGY, April 2006). This time Nathan Bittner has joined as the lead author.
Possible Selection Bias and Lack of Mortality Endpoints Prevent Conclusions About New Standards of Care
In this issue of ONCOLOGY, Bittner et al provide a thoughtful review of the literature to advocate for the viewpoint that interstitial brachytherapy should be standard of care for the treatment of high-risk prostate cancer.
In the realm of general oncology, patients who present with aggressive, poorly differentiated malignancies are usually at high risk for disseminated disease, and systemic therapy often supersedes local therapy in importance. It is not surprising, then, that a similar systemic approach to therapy is often considered for patients who present with high-risk prostate cancer. This recommendation is often supported by much of the surgical literature that cites discouraging outcomes in these patients when treated by radical prostatectomy alone.
The standard management for advanced-stage ovarian cancer was established in the mid-1970s. At a 1974 National Cancer Institute Consensus Conference on Ovarian Cancer, Griffiths presented data supporting the role for aggressive cytoreductive surgery as the first step in the management of this disease, followed by cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Polypharmacy, defined as concurrent use of several drugs, is not uncommon in the elderly and increases their risk of adverse drug reactions and interactions. Besides adverse drug reactions and drug-drug interactions, other clinical sequelae of polypharmacy include nonadherence, increased risk of hospitalizations, and medication errors.
Advances in science have prolonged the average life span, and people are living relatively longer than before. Nevertheless, we have much to achieve to prolong the "healthy life span." People in old age suffer from multiple chronic ailments, and many of them succumb to death by heart disease, cancer, or stroke. To survive these diseases, patients continuously depend on concurrent multiple medications—also referred to as polypharmacy—and with that comes the responsibility of appropriate selection, administration, and monitoring of therapeutic modalities.
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc, recently announced that The New England Journal of Medicine published results of a phase III trial demonstrating that sorafenib (Nexavar) tablets decreased the absolute risk of death by 31% in patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) vs patients who received placebo. This represents a 44% improvement in median overall survival for patients treated with sorafenib.
Measuring a woman's bone mineral density can provide additional information that may help to more accurately determine a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. That is the conclusion of a new study to be published in the September 1, 2008, issue of CANCER.
The magnitude of the role surgical exploration and extirpation play in the contemporary management of patients with advanced ovarian cancer is hard to overstate. Beyond diagnostic confirmation, the aggressive posture taken to remove bulk disease provides—among other benefits—symptomatic relief, theoretically enhanced immunologic integrity, chemosensitivity, and improved survival characteristics.
As outlined in the comprehensive review by Dr. Schwartz, cytoreductive surgery followed by platinum-based chemotherapy is considered the standard of care in the initial management of patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Considering prognostic factors for patients with advanced disease, residual disease after primary surgery is still considered to be the most important modifiable prognostic factor influencing survival. This has again been recently confirmed by a large retrospective study including six different Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) studies.