Non-invasive treatment produces 98 percent prostate cancer cure rate

A microscope image of prostate cancer cells

Traditional approaches to tackling prostate cancer are generally quite effective, with a 80 to 90 percent cure rate, but a new method, known as Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) could revolutionize the practice. The results of an extensive five-year study have now been published, showing that the method, which requires far fewer hospital visits than conventional radiation therapy, has a cure rate of 98.6 percent.

Currently, if you're diagnosed with the early stages of prostate cancer, there are three treatment paths available. Doctors can either decide to surgically remove the gland, implant tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate using needles in the operating room, or use external beam radiation, which involves between 42 and 45 treatments, taking place five days a week and spaced out over a period of two months or more.

Those methods are pretty effective, curing the patient 80-90 percent of the time. However, the SBRT treatment has the potential to make the therapy process far less disruptive, while also significantly increasing the patient's odds of beating the disease.

The lead site for the trial was the University of Texas Southwestern (UT Southwestern) medical center, with 91 patients diagnosed with stage one (low risk) and stage two (intermediate risk) prostate cancer taking part.

The biggest benefit of the treatment is the reduction in the number of hospital visits that the patient has to make, lowering the 44-treatment average of conventional radiation therapy to just five visits. It works by delivering multiple beams at various angles, which converge on the prostate and deliver a high dose of radiation.

The method allows for large amount of radiation to be delivered to the tumor while limiting effects on the surrounding tissue. It certainly seems to be effective, with only one patient experienced a recurrence of the cancer in the five years following treatment.

While the treatment was found to be more effective than other courses of action, the side effects appeared to be the same. Patients reported urinary issues (such as increased urgency and frequency), rectal irritation, and in around 25 percent of cases, a decrease in erectile function. Looking forward, the researchers plan to investigate means of reducing these side effects, while also looking into using the technique to tackle stage three prostate cancer.

Perhaps the most compelling aspects of the treatment option, should it become widely available, is the lessened impact that the therapy would have on patients' lives.

"I live 45 minutes away from UT Southwestern," said trial patient Terry Martin. "The difference between being treated five times versus 44 times is enormous. I felt that I was back to normal just 10 days after finishing treatment."

Full details of the extensive study are published online in the European Journal of Cancer.

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