Cancer: Prostate cancer revolution | Express.co.uk

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Cancer: Prostate cancer revolution | Express.co.uk


British researchers are testing techniques that allow high doses of treatment on fewer days, significantly reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospital.

The breakthrough therapy could slash the number of radiotherapy treatments men have to endure from a typical 37 to just five.

Scientists are using a speciallymade jelly to form a protective barrier between the prostate gland and other organs in the male hip.

It solidifies to create a force that pushes the organs around 0.5 inches away from each other. The extra space lowers the radiation dose affecting surrounding tissue.


While these early findings look promising we need to see the final results of this trial before we can draw any conclusions

Simon Grieveson

As a result, specialists are able to treat the cancerous prostate with higher and more targeted doses of radiation without increasing the chances of life-changing side-effects like impotence or bowel and bladder problems.

Dr Ciaran Fairmichael, clinical research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, where the treatment is being tested in partnership with the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, said: “Following radiotherapy there is a high risk that patients can be left with damage to neighbouring tissues.

“The insertion of the hydrogel creates a greater distance between the prostate tumour and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumour and reduce the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumour like the bowel.

“This could be available on the NHS very soon but, as with all treatments, it depends on cost.

“But we think, reducing treatment to five days, we can save the NHS so much time and money that the treatment almost pays for itself.”

A revolutionary new prostate cancer treatment that cuts radiotherapy sessions was revealed (Image: GETTY)

Radiotherapy involves directing high-energy X-ray beams at the prostate gland from outside the body.

The powerful beams damage the cells to stop them dividing and growing.

The therapy treats the whole prostate and sometimes the area around it, increasing the chances of side-effects.

To mitigate this, scientists are testing the use of Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy, in which three small gold pellets are inserted into the prostate to act as GPS signals, pinpointing exactly where the blast of radiation is needed.

The gel, known as SpaceOAR, is inserted by needle around a month before treatment starts, allowing sufferers to have a full course of radiotherapy in a fraction of the time.

The treatment, which costs £4,000, involves the administration of two solutions that solidify when mixed inside the body but dissolve naturally a few months later.

It has been tested on 20 patients and initial results have shown great promise.

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Dr Ciaran Fairmichael oversaw tests (Image: QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST)

Trial co-leader Dr Suneil Jain said: “Early clinical results indicate the insertion of a spacer was well tolerated by all patients.

“To our knowledge this is the first reported UK experience of a hydrogel rectal spacer system. This promising approach merits further investigation.”

Radiotherapy is measured in grays (Gy), with a normal course seeing a patient receive two Gy each day over 37 or 39 days, although some patients now receive three Gy a day for 20 days.

The breakthrough trial uses up to eight Gy a day, given to patients over five days (spread out over two to five weeks).

Scientists use eight Gy on most of the prostate but, with the benefit of the gel, are able to give 10 Gy a day to the part most affected by the tumour. Funding for the trial came from the Movember Foundation and Friends of the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre.

Simon Grieveson, of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “One of the biggest challenges for men receiving radiotherapy is the exhausting impact of travelling to and from hospital for regular treatment over a number of weeks.

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The graphic shows how the breakthrough treatment works (Image: NC)

“We already know from previous research that higher dose radiotherapy over 20 sessions is just as effective as traditional lower dose radiotherapy over 37 sessions and this trial is looking to reduce those visits even further.

However, by increasing the dosage, the risk of potential side-effects increases and so this study is also looking at a possible way to minimise these effects.

“While these early findings look promising we need to see the final results of this trial before we can draw any conclusions.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.

More than 47,000 males are diagnosed every year, equal to 129 every day.

Every 45 minutes a man dies from the disease, or more than 11,000 every year.

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Gordan Robinson and his wife Elma both have suffered from cancer (Image: NC)

Case Study

Gordon Robinson, 70, found out he had prostate cancer after his wife Elma forced him to go for a health check-up.

Elma had battled advanced breast cancer twice and was desperate for her husband to get seen.

When he did eventually go, he was given what seemed a devastating diagnosis.

Retired Mr Robinson, 70, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, said: “Last July my wife had been giving me stick to get a MOT but I had put it off.

“When I did my doctor said my prostate specific antigen was a little high, I had 22 biopsies and they found two tumours. I discussed treatment options and was told about a trial being run at Queen’s University Belfast, for which they said I would be an ideal candidate.

“Last September, gold pellets and gel were inserted and I started intensive treatment in January.

“To be honest, I am absolutely amazed I have come through it all.”

He said: “If it wasn’t for this research I simply would not be here. My family and I are so thankful to the doctors who have helped us. This treatment has allowed me to live my life again.

“Taking part in this trial meant I was offered a high-dose treatment course instead of enduring two months of treatment. It was really successful in getting rid of my tumour.

“I knew about the side-effects and it really frightened me, but I had very little discomfort or complications and can return to normal life, and for that I am very grateful.

Mr Robinson was one of 20 men enlisted to take part in breakthrough tests run by Queen’s University and the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, which saw his treatment ramped up and delivered over five days rather than two months. He is now in remission and credits the intensive radiotherapy for saving his life.

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Gordon credits the level of research put into prostate cancer for enabling him to live (Image: GETTY)

The saga marks the end of a harrowing time for the couple, who have been married for 44 years. In 1996 Mr Robinson was in his car when it was firebombed during a flashpoint in The Troubles. The incident saw him suffer post-traumatic stress and he lost his job as a sales director.

Just a year later Elma, 72, who also has diabetes, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Five years later, she was diagnosed again.

Mr Robinson said: “We have both had a rough time and I have been lucky to escape with my life more than once. As long as both of us are well then I am happy because we know there are many people who are worse off.”

Thankful… Gordon Robinson and wife Elma Dr Ciaran Fairmichael oversaw tests

‘The treatment has allowed me to live my life again’



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