In their clinical trial, a group of researchers from Queen’s University Belfast recently found that they could treat prostate cancer with just 5 radiotherapy sessions. Published in the British Journal of Radiology, these findings present high intensity radiation, with SpaceOAR gel use to minimize side effects, as a potential alternative to the current 37-session radiotherapy method.
This trial utilized stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), which is a precisely targeted radiotherapy technique using several radiation beams at once. These thin beams are directed at different angles, all of which meeting at the tumor. This method concentrates high radiation at the tumor, while the peripheral healthy tissue only receives low dose radiation. This form of radiation can be very effective; however, it can still damage healthy tissue and bring about unwarranted side effects such as urinary and rectal leakage, diarrhea and erectile dysfunction.
To combat this, a minimally invasive hydrogel called SpaceOAR was applied to patients prior to SABR treatment. In previous studies, this hydrogel has been found to significantly reduce radiotherapy side effects in patients by creating space between the rectum and the prostate gland. It is injected into the patient prior to the start of radiation treatment, remains stable during treatment, and is gradually absorbed afterwards. CT scans are used to plan the injection and assess the hydrogel’s position after insertion. This was the first study to analyze the combined use of SpaceOAR and SABR.
Dr. Ciaran Fairmichael, Clinical Research Fellow at Queen’s University who was involved with the study, said that the hydrogel “creates a greater distance between the prostate tumor and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumor, and thus reducing the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumor such as the bowel.”
The researchers found that all the 6 patients involved in the trial had successful spacer insertions, and that side effects were significantly reduced with this coupled treatment.
Trial participant Gordon Robinson, age 70, said “If it wasn’t for this research, I simply would not be here.” He adds, “Taking part in this trial meant I was offered a high-dose five treatment course instead of enduring two months of treatment. The treatment was really successful in getting rid of my tumor.”
This trial provides strong evidence that using SpaceOAR hydrogel may allow physicians to treat prostate cancer with high dose radiation, while avoiding the commonly associated side effects. This trial is still open, with researchers aiming to offer the treatment to a broader range of men.