New techniques could reduce prostate cancer treatment to five days

It uses an advanced treatment called 'SABR'

New techniques could reduce prostate cancer treatment to five days

Cell cultures at a lab in Berlin, Germany | Image: Britta Pedersen/DPA/PA Images

A clinical trial has shown that men with prostate cancer could benefit from radical radiotherapy that delivers treatment in just five visits - instead of the usual 37.

The early results from the Queen's University Belfast SPORT trial (A Study Evaluating Stereotactic Prostate Radiotherapy in High-Risk Localised Prostate Cancer) is the first of its kind in the UK.

It uses an advanced treatment called 'SABR' (Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy).

SABR is highly accurate in targeting certain cancers, and delivers large doses per treatment - allowing men to have their full course of radiotherapy in only five hospital visits.

In addition, patients in the study have SpaceOAR - a minimally invasive hydrogel technology - inserted before radiotherapy treatment.

Researchers say in previous studies, SpaceOAR has been shown to "significantly decrease" unwanted radiotherapy side effects.

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

Dr Fairmichael explains: "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."

Gordon Robinson (70) took part in the trial.

He says: "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."

"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 tumour.

"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 preliminary results from the first patients treated in the trial have been published in the British Journal of Radiology.

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