High-tech precision radiation treatment offers new prostate cancer hope

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Up to 18,000 Australian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, with 15,000 currently living with metastatic prostate cancer, meaning the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Standard treatment options, including hormone therapy and chemotherapy, are often associated with negative side effects, but research shows that a new, high-tech precision radiation treatment being offered here in Australia could bring hope to many.

Results of the research – the world’s largest prostate cancer trial of its kind – were published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Led by experts from Icon Cancer Centre in Melbourne, the trial involved nearly 200 men being given stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), an advanced form of therapy capable of providing radiation in high doses, to small areas of cancer, while sparing healthy tissue.

Each treatment lasts less than 10 minutes and is delivered over a two-week period.

The results have shown 50 percent of patients were free from treatment escalation for two years and, importantly, none of the patients experienced any severe long-term side effects.

Icon Cancer Centre’s principal investigator and radiation oncologist, Dr Pat Bowden, said the new data gave hope to men living with metastatic prostate cancer.

“Unfortunately, this is an incurable condition with life expectancy of about five years,” Dr Bowden said.

“It is therefore extremely promising to see precision radiation therapy delay treatment progression for more than two years.

“A very small percentage of men have a zero PSA reading more than three years after the SBRT.

“They potentially have been cured, although we need longer follow up to confirm this finding.” he said.

One of the main advantages of SBRT is in delaying more toxic treatments, such as chemotherapy, thereby improving the quality of life for men in this situation.

SBRT targets small tumours with millimetre accuracy, through a combination of customised equipment, quality imaging and the latest software.

The latest imaging technology, PSMA-PET, was also used on 75 percent of the study participants to support the early detection of prostate cancer lesions and lower the risk of untreated metastatic lesions.

The clinical expertise and technology required to deliver SBRT and PSMA-PET are so far located in six Icon centres, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Hobart.

“These results demonstrate innovation such as SBRT in cancer care can add enormously to the cancer journey, improving quality and duration of life,” Dr Bowden said.

“Icon is proud to invest in research in our cancer centres that contribute to advancements across Australia and provide the best care possible, to as many people as possible.”

The study was funded by Epworth Medical Foundation and the EJ Whitten Foundation.

Epworth executive director, Scott Bulger, said the research findings would improve the quality of life of men across the country.

“This is a benefit to patients now and into the future,” he said.

“We’re able to provide patients at Epworth with the best possible care because of our investments in ground-breaking research that continues to advance medical care.”

EJ Whitten Foundation CEO, Nick Holland, said his organisation was seeking better ways to diagnose, treat, prevent and potentially cure, prostate cancer.

“We are proud to support a study of this significance and we’re excited by the fact that the findings will set a new standard of care and help save men’s lives,” he said.

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