The effect of biological effective dose on response and time to symptom progression in metastatic renal cell carcinoma

D Wilson, Louise Hiller, L Gray, M Grainger, A Stirling, Nicholas James

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34 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS: Renal cell carcinoma is commonly thought to be a radioresistant malignancy. Retrospective studies report conflicting results on the effect of radiotherapy dose escalation on response and time to progression in symptomatic metastatic disease; studies using the linear quadratic model have used alpha/beta ratios that are inappropriate for slow growing tumours. We aim to describe our experience with palliative radiotherapy in this context, relating Biological Effective Dose to outcome. MATERIALS AND METHODS: From December 1995 to April 2001, 143 independent palliative radiotherapy treatments were delivered to 78 patients in a single institution. Retrospective data was obtained on the radiotherapy schedule used, symptom response and time to symptom progression. The biological effective dose (BED) was calculated using alpha/beta ratios of 3 and 7 Gy (BED3 and BED7). The Log-Rank test was used to assess any differences in time to progression, and the Cox Proportional Hazards analysis to determine prognostic factors of time to progression. RESULTS: Overall symptomatic response rate was 73%, with most responses being partial (67%). Forty-three (38%) patients had symptomatic progression after a median follow-up of 425 days. BED (BED3 or BED7) was not significantly different across response types (complete, partial or no response; P=0.90 and 0.88, respectively) and was not predictive for time to symptomatic progression (P=0.99 for BED3 and P=0.70 for BED7). Patients with bone metastases received less total dose (P=0.001), less BED (BED3, P=0.0013, and BED7, P=0.0005) and had a significantly longer time to progression than other sites of metastases (hazard ratio (HR) 0.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.2-0.7; P=0.004). Initial treatment with interferon-alpha alone in patients presenting with metastatic disease, before palliative radiotherapy, was also associated with a shorter time to symptom progression (HR 4.6; 95% CI 1.5-14.1; P=0.007). On removal of these criteria, brain metastases became a significant predictor of progression time, with an HR of 2.5 (95% CI 1.0-5.9; P=0.05), showing an increased risk of progression with brain metastases compared with metastases elsewhere. Time from primary diagnosis to development of metastatic disease was not predictive of time to symptom progression (P=0.29). CONCLUSION: Despite the widespread assumption that renal cell carcinoma is radioresistant, retrospective assessment showed high response rates to palliative radiotherapy. On the basis of our data, higher BED does not seem to be a predictor of response or of duration of response in the palliative treatment of renal cell carcinoma. Palliation of bone pain seems to be particularly durable compared with the palliation of symptoms at other sites of metastases. A trend for shorter duration of palliative effect of whole-brain radiotherapy was noted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-407
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Oncology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2003


  • renal cell carcinoma
  • metastases
  • radiotherapy


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