Palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases in the last 3 months of life: Worthwhile or futile? - Abstract

Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program, Department of Radiation Oncology, Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


To determine the efficacy of radiotherapy for the palliation of pain from bone metastases among patients in their last 3 months of life.

Mutually exclusive, prospectively gathered Edmonton Symptom Assessment System and Brief Pain Inventory databases compiled from patients with bone metastases receiving palliative radiotherapy were reviewed. Demographic information and response rates from patients dying within 3 months of beginning radiotherapy were analysed.

From a total of 918 patients, 232 dying within 3 months of beginning treatment were identified. There were 148 men and 84 women. Their median age was 69 years and their median Karnofsky Performance Status was 60. The three most common primary cancers were lung (34%), prostate (18%) and gastrointestinal (14%). Fifty-eight percent of patients received single fraction treatment. A pain response was evaluable for the 109 (47%) patients with available follow-up information. The overall response rates were 70% at 1 month and 63% at 2 months, which included complete and partial responses in accordance with the International Bone Metastases Consensus definitions.

Despite their limited lifespan, patients reported pain relief after palliative radiotherapy. Patients suffering from painful bone metastases with an estimated survival of 3 months should still be considered for palliative radiotherapy.

Written by:
Dennis K, Wong K, Zhang L, Culleton S, Nguyen J, Holden L, Jon F, Tsao M, Danjoux C, Barnes E, Sahgal A, Zeng L, Koo K, Chow E.   Are you the author?

Reference: Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2011 Jun 10. Epub ahead of print.
doi: 10.1016/j.clon.2011.05.004

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 21665446 Prostate Cancer Section