Technology Advancements Help Treat Prostate Cancer
The Wendt Regional Cancer Center has been a leader in offering the most advanced treatments for prostate cancer. The standard treatment options for men with early stage, low risk prostate cancer include radiation therapy (RT), radical prostatectomy, or active surveillance in carefully selected patients. The choice of treatment is determined by patient preference and patient risk factors. All current trials completed to date suggest that outcomes with RT are similar to those with radical prostatectomy for men with localized disease. Because RT is less invasive, it has become the most common way to treat prostate cancer.
Historically, radiation therapy was inconvenient for patients. A traditional RT course would entail approximately 8 weeks of treatment, Monday through Friday. Small radiation doses were delivered everyday, which would eventually build up to a desired cumulative dose. This approach was done to minimize side effects to surrounding organs, such as the bladder and bowels. Over the past 10 years, we have seen significant technological advancements in the specialty of radiation therapy.
These advancements have been noticed in the Wendt Center in three primary areas:
Treatment planning software: Historically, our radiation beams did not differentiate between prostate cancer and normal bladder and bowels. Now, our RT planning software allows us to shape radiation beams, utilizing millimeter blocks, to bend and curve radiation doses away from organs that we want to spare. We call this “dose painting” and the technology is called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). With the advancements in our planning, we have seen side effects from RT to the prostate decrease dramatically.
Image Guidance: We now have the technology to film daily while the patient is getting treatment to adjust for any treatment setup errors. The end result is accuracy within millimeters. This accuracy and precision has given us the ability, in some cases, to reduce our treatment from 44 treatments to five. Stereotactic Body Radiation (SBRT) is a highly potent and targeted form of radiation therapy that allows us now to complete prostate treatments within five treatments. It has been described as “surgery without a scalpel.”
Anatomic manipulation: One of the most recent advancements in our specialty is the ability to create separation between organs to further reduce radiation dose. A new hydrogel called SpacerOAR has been developed. It can be inserted between the prostate and rectum and would slowly dissolve over a period of three months. The spacer allows us to create a separation between the prostate and rectum. This reduces radiation doses to the rectum by up to 50%. We recently utilized this spacer in one of our patients receiving SBRT.
The Wendt Center has been a regional leader in the treatment of prostate cancer with significant technological advancements. Because of these advancements, we can now deliver RT faster and more accurately, with less side effects.
Dr. Bobby Koneru is board certified in Radiation Oncology. He did his training at Northwestern University in Chicago. He is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He sees patients at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center, the Helen G. Nassif Radiation Center, and the Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center.