- Open Access
Hypofractionated radiotherapy has the potential for second cancer reduction
© Schneider et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
- Received: 6 January 2010
- Accepted: 11 February 2010
- Published: 11 February 2010
Background and Purpose
A model for carcinoma and sarcoma induction was used to study the dependence of carcinogenesis after radiotherapy on fractionation.
Materials and methods
A cancer induction model for radiotherapy doses including fractionation was used to model carcinoma and sarcoma induction after a radiation treatment. For different fractionation schemes the dose response relationships were obtained. Tumor induction was studied as a function of dose per fraction.
If it is assumed that the tumor is treated up to the same biologically equivalent dose it was found that large dose fractions could decrease second cancer induction. The risk decreases approximately linear with increasing fraction size and is more pronounced for sarcoma induction. Carcinoma induction decreases by around 10% per 1 Gy increase in fraction dose. Sarcoma risk is decreased by about 15% per 1 Gy increase in fractionation. It is also found that tissue which is irradiated using large dose fractions to dose levels lower than 10% of the target dose potentially develop less sarcomas when compared to tissues irradiated to all dose levels. This is not observed for carcinoma induction.
It was found that carcinoma as well as sarcoma risk decreases with increasing fractionation dose. The reduction of sarcoma risk is even more pronounced than carcinoma risk. Hypofractionation is potentially beneficial with regard to second cancer induction.
- Dose Fraction
- Fractionation Schedule
- Cancer Induction
- Excess Absolute Risk
- Carcinoma Risk
Although the increased risk for radiotherapy patients to develop a secondary malignancy is small, it is statistically significant, in particular for long time survivors of treatment. As a consequence of better radiation treatment modalities available, cancer cure rates have increased. As a result, there are now many long term survivors of cancer who are at risk of late effects of therapy, including secondary cancers.
Hypo-fractionated treatment schedules are proposed for several types of cancers, including cancer of the breast [1–4], prostate [5–7] and lung [8, 9]. Although such treatment options are still related to major concerns such as the uncertainty to predict the correct complication probabilities of normal tissues and control probabilities for tumor tissue it might be of interest to study their impact on radiation induced cancer.
Estimates of radiation carcinogenesis after radiotherapy can be based on epidemiological studies of patients treated with old techniques. However, most of the epidemiological studies, which are published in a large number, don't provide a correlation of cancer induction with dose. Unfortunately, if a dose correlation is deduced, cancer induction is usually related to integral dose or average organ dose and thus implies a linear dose-response relationship. Thus, such data cannot be used directly to obtain non-linear dose-response relationships for radiotherapy. Therefore, as an alternative cancer risk models can be used to estimate second malignancies after radiotherapy. Those models can be validated with epidemiologic studies.
Sachs and Brenner  developed a discrete algebraic model of dose-dependent cancer risk, incorporating cell killing and proliferation/repopulation effects. In this report we use a model based on a continuous approach with a dose variation from zero to the total delivered dose which leads to an analytic representation of cancer risk. The model includes fractionation effects and distinguishes between carcinoma and sarcoma induction.
where R is the repopulation parameter which characterizes the ability of the tissue to repopulate. Risk was computed for different fractionation schemes using Equs.2 and 3.
In this report a cancer induction model for the radiotherapy dose range was used. Several assumptions had to be made to simplify the biological processes leading to cancer induction . This includes the design of tissues, the repopulation process and processes which result in the formation of a tumor cell. This was done to keep the number of model parameters at a minimum. However, this is associated with uncertainties. It was for example suggested  that some radiotherapy-induced second cancers can be the consequence of late normal tissue damage leading to a precancerous lesion. Such a mechanism is not included in the present model.
Another assumption of the presented model is that single dose fractions of a radiotherapy treatment are treated independently. Therefore the linear-no-threshold theory for cancer induction could be applied to each single dose fraction. Although this may be valid for a single exposure lower than 3 Gy, for fractionation schedules with single doses of more than 3 Gy the model must be used with care. In addition it is not clear whether it can be applied for dose fractions which are separated by days when in fact not all cells are fully repaired.
Many problems and uncertainties are involved in modeling the underlying biology of radiation induced cancer. However, since very little is currently known about the shape of dose-response relationships for radiation-induced cancer in the radiotherapy dose range, this approach can be used to look at least qualitatively at the fractionation dependence of cancer induction for carcinomas and sarcomas separately.
As the results of this report are expressed in terms of EAR it is also difficult to compare them with the findings of Sachs and Brenner  who fitted an algebraic model of cancer induction to lung cancer risk.
If the fraction size is increased while keeping the total dose at a level which corresponds to the same biological response (LQ-model) it is shown that cancer induction is decreasing linearly. This decrease occurs for both carcinoma and sarcoma induction, however, the effect is more pronounced for sarcoma induction. Quantitatively a reduction of around 5% to 15% is expected while increasing the fraction size from 2 Gy to 3 Gy. As a consequence hypo-fractionated treatment techniques are with regard to cancer induction advantageous when compared to conventional fractionation schedules, as for example in prostate radiotherapy where hypofractionation is realized with intensity modulated treatment techniques (IMRT). However, if both a hypofractionated treatment schedule and a new treatment technique is applied (for example a cyberknife treatment), risk must be analysed in detail. The dose distributions resulting from cyberknife treatments are significantly different from conventional therapy and hence the changes in risk with regard to dose distribution might balance the implications of changes in the fractionation.
A cancer induction model for fractionated radiotherapy was used to investigate the impact of different fractionation schedules on second cancer risk.
It was found that carcinoma as well as sarcoma risk decreases with increasing fractionation dose. This decrease is nearly linear with fractionation dose and is more distinct for sarcoma induction. It was also shown that the risk advantage for the sarcoma induction is significantly dependent on the dose in the tissue and is more enhanced for tissue irradiated with low dose (< 10% of the prescribed dose).
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