A new clinical trial shows the benefits of an innovative form of radiation therapy, which delivers the radiation in only five sessions instead of the usual 37. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated that prostate cancer affects over 160,000 people in the United States.

As with most forms of cancer, treatment options range from surgery to radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. Usually, radiotherapy involves 37 sessions. That said, a new clinical trial tests a radical form of radiotherapy that could reduce that number down to just five.

The trial examined the effects of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), a highly targeted form of radiotherapy that uses several beams of radiation at once. The beams intersect at the tumor, delivering a high dose of radiation to the malignancy but a very low dose to the surrounding healthy tissue.

However, SABR may have some side effects, including tiredness, itchy or dry skin, and soreness or swelling where the treatment was applied. In the case of prostate cancer, radiation therapy may cause urinary problems, bowel problems, and even impotence.

In the new trial, however, the participants also benefited from SpaceOAR, which is a hydrogel previously shown to minimize the side effects of radiation therapy in prostate cancer.

Suneil Jain jointly led the trial, a senior clinical lecturer at Queen's University in Belfast, United Kingdom, together with Ciaran Fairmichael, a clinical research fellow also at Queen's University. The researchers published the results of the trial in the British Journal of Radiology.

Spacer improves high-dose treatment

SpaceOAR is a minimally invasive hydrogel rectal spacer. Co-lead researcher Fairmichael explains, "One of the complications from using radiotherapy is the potential damage that can be inflicted on neighboring tissues."

"In this trial," Fairmichael added, "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 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," he added.