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Breakthrough trial for prostate cancer patients leads to massive reduction in radiotherapy treatment

Dr Suneil Jain, clinical senior lecturer at Queen's University, has led a breakthrough clinical trial for prostate cancer patients
Seanín Graham

A RADICAL new radiotherapy trial for men with prostate cancer in Northern Ireland has found the number of visits for treatment could be massively cut, it has emerged.

Treatment may be delivered in just five bouts compared to the usual 37, according to researchers at Queen's University Belfast.

The trial was the first of its kind in the UK and delivered large doses per treatment concentrated on the tumour.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagosed cancer among men in the north, with around 1,000 cases each year.

Gordon Robinson, 70, from Dungannon, took part in the trial and credits it with saving his life.

"If it wasn't for this research, I simply would not be here. My family and I are so thankful to the doctors who have helped us.

"This treatment has allowed me to live my life again."

Patients in the study had SpaceOar, a minimally invasive hydrogel technology, inserted prior to radiotherapy treatment.

In previous studies, SpaceOar has been shown to significantly decrease unwanted side effects.

The trial was led by Dr Suneil Jain, clinical senior lecturer at Queen's University alongside Dr Ciaran Fairmichael, clinical research fellow.

Dr Fairmichael said: "One of the complications from using radiotherapy is the potential damage that can be inflicted on neighbouring tissues.

"In this trial, we are evaluating the performance of the SpaceOar hydrogel which is inserted between the prostate gland and the rectum of the patient.

"This creates a greater distance between the prostate tumour and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumour and thus reducing the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumour such as the bowel."

Using the new hydrogel allows clinicians to treat the prostate with a higher dose of radiation, potentially without increasing the risk of side-effects, including impotence, bowel and bladder problems.

Mr Robinson 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 tumour," he added.

"I knew about the side effects of treatment, and they really frightened me, but this trial meant I had very little discomfort or complications and can return to normal life, for that I am very grateful."

The study is conducted in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre and is being supported/funded by Friends Of The Cancer Centre and Augmenix UK Ltd.

The trial is still open and in the future there are hopes to be able to offer this treatment to a wider range of men.

Queen's is a Prostate Cancer UK/Movember Foundation Centre of Excellence.

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