Newspapers: VA in Penn. botched cancer treatments

June 22, 2009

(AP) -- Ninety-two veterans were given incorrect radiation doses in a common surgical procedure to treat prostate cancer during a six-year period at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, according to newspaper reports Sunday.

A hospital team that performed the procedure botched it on 92 of 116 occasions and continued the treatment for a year even though monitoring equipment was broken, The New York Times said. The Philadelphia Inquirer said treatment errors occurred in 92 of 114 cases.

The cases involved brachytherapy, in which implanted radioactive seeds are used to kill . Most veterans got significantly less than the prescribed dose while others received excessive radiation to nearby tissue and organs.

A federal commission announced last fall that an inspection at the hospital was under way partly because of the number of patients given incorrect radiation doses. The medical center suspended its treatment program as a result of the ongoing investigation.

Investigators found that 57 implants delivered too little radiation to the prostate and 35 cases involved overdoses to other parts of the body, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report published in the Federal Register this month. An unspecified number of patients had both underdoses to the prostate and overdoses in other areas.

All of the affected veterans have received follow-up care, and eight got additional seed implants at a Seattle VA center, according to Dale Warman of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Warman said the hospital leadership "takes the ... situation very seriously and has taken every step possible to correct or mitigate the problem."

Four of the men have since died, but Warman said none of the deaths was connected to prostate cancer or the treatment.

Several staff members, including oncologist Gary Kao, who was under contract to the VA and was involved in nearly all of the cases, are no longer employed at the hospital. Kao's lawyer, Jack L. Gruenstein, told the Times its account of the doctor's role was "false" but declined to elaborate.

A team from the commission, which oversees such radiation therapy, is scheduled to be in Philadelphia this week to investigate.

"As we have done throughout this process, Philadelphia VA Medical Center staff are prepared to share whatever records and information are necessary to discover what happened, why it happened, and to take steps to prevent it from happening again," Warman said.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Facts About Prostate Cancer and Its Treatment

Related Stories

Facts About Prostate Cancer and Its Treatment

October 25, 2006

In 2006, about 235,000 Americans will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, making it the most common cancer among males. If caught early, prostate cancer is very treatable and usually curable.

Radiation therapy combo cures prostate cancer long-term

January 4, 2007

Seventy-four percent of men treated with a combination of radiation seed implants and external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer are cured of their disease 15 years following their treatment, according to a study ...

IMRT better for sparing bladder when treating prostate cancer

October 9, 2007

When treating early-stage prostate cancer, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) spares the bladder significantly more from direct radiation when compared to 3-D conformal proton therapy (3D-CPT), but the amount of ...

Radiation seeds effectively cure prostate cancer in young men

October 29, 2007

Radiation seed implants (brachytherapy) are just as effective at curing prostate cancer in younger men (aged 60 and younger) as they are in older men, according to a study presented at a scientific session on October 31, ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ForFreeMinds
not rated yet Jun 22, 2009
An example of things to come if Obama get's his health care plan through. Except, with the government running the show, mistakes like this are, IMHO, less likely to be discovered and announced.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.