An Australian-first study has been launched to support the use of a revolutionary new technique to treat prostate cancer and reduce side-effects.
Many men suffer problems such as urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, along with the emotional distress both a cancer diagnosis and the impact of treatment can cause.
However, focal brachytherapy is a highly-targeted technique that focuses on the tumour rather than the whole prostate, delivering better outcomes for patients.
Australia’s largest cancer care provider, Icon, has teamed up with Victoria-based Epworth HealthCare to launch the LIBERATE clinical registry, which will monitor men who have had the treatment for low-to-intermediate risk prostate cancer.
It will span a five-year period to determine its effects on long-term quality of life and rates of cancer control for patients at Icon’s clinics in Epworth’s Richmond and Freemasons hospitals in Melbourne.
Andrew Dalton, 64, is one of the first candidates accepted for the study, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019 while it was still localised and at an early stage.
“If you are lucky enough to be eligible for focal brachytherapy as I was, you don’t need to consider prostatectomy or more aggressive treatment, and even if the treatment isn’t successful these alternative approaches to treatment are all still available,” he said.
“I had no worries at all – it just makes sense to treat the tumour itself and preserve the function of the prostate as much as possible.”
Unlike traditional brachytherapy developed over the past 40 years, this technique implants small radioactive seeds directly into the cancerous area of the prostate, destroying the diseased cells over a short period of time.
Epworth urologist Associate Professor Jeremy Grummet said the cutting-edge treatment was possible due to continued advances in diagnostic imaging technology.
“Now we can pinpoint the exact location of the tumour and directly administer radioactive seeds into it, further reducing the impact this treatment has on erectile, bladder and bowel function,” he said.
Icon Cancer Centre radiation oncologist Dr Andrew See said the minimally-invasive procedure, which requires same-day surgery, allows patients to quickly resume their lives.
“The brilliant thing is that the men walk out of the clinic a few hours later and return to normal life, but the effect continues for up to 100 days,” said Dr See, who has over 20 years’ experience in brachytherapy treatment for prostate cancer.
By building robust evidence for best practice, he said the LIBERATE project would help to ensure continued provision of treatments to benefit all patients.
“We hope this study will provide thousands of men living with an early prostate cancer diagnosis hope that they can maintain a good quality of life even through treatment,” Dr See added.
Mr Dalton said he was looking forward to participating in the study, having experienced few side-effects from the treatment except for minor initial bruising.
“Research is fundamental in the treatment of cancer. Joining the LIBERATE registry and contributing to evidence of focal brachytherapy for the benefit of future patients has been a very good thing,” he said.