According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Therapies for treating prostate cancer have evolved over time, and recent innovations are now allowing for an increase in the safety of these treatments.

Radiotherapy today

“There has been great progress in the treatment of prostate cancer with radiation in the last several years,” says Dr. Daniel Fried, the medical director of the Gibbs Cancer Center and Research Institute—Pelham. “We are able to treat prostate cancer to higher dose with greater precision than ever. 

“In addition,” continues Fired, “there is growing use of stereotactic body radiotherapy for prostate cancer, which allows for a significantly shortened treatment course with excellent clinical outcomes, both in terms of disease control and side effects.”

Room to improve

While radiotherapy has proven very effective in treating prostate cancer, one of the most concerning factors for patients receiving a relatively high dose of radiation in this area is the difficulty in targeting the prostate only. It has been nearly impossible to avoid secondary targeting to the front wall of the rectum. This can result in rectal bleeding, surgery or even a colostomy. To address this issue, a gel spacer is now available that allows separation of the prostate and rectal wall by an average of 1.3 centimeters.

“'In my opinion, the gel spacer is amongst the most important developments in radiation treatment of prostate cancer in the last several years.'”

“The studies looking at the impact of the gel spacer indicate that there is less long-term toxicity to the rectal wall, and that toxicity is less severe” adds Dr. Fried, who is also the director of radiation oncology at Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center in Greenville, S.C. “Patients typically tolerate the radiation course quite well, and in addition, we have found that patients who have the gel spacer have fewer short-term bowel side effects.”

Refining the future

Dr. Fried has high hopes for this new technology, and what it could mean for patients, who will benefit from more precise radiation treatments in a multitude of ways. “In my opinion, the gel spacer is amongst the most important developments in radiation treatment of prostate cancer in the last several years,” he says. “I expect that the gel spacer will promote broader use of shortened radiation courses through technologies we offer, which allows treatment of prostate cancer in only five treatments rather than a conventional course of 44 treatments.

“I also anticipate that we will be able to increase the dose delivered to the prostate using both,” he adds. “My hope is that this will improve cure rates while maintaining a very favorable side effect profile.”