Single ten-minute shot of radiation can save prostate cancer patients misery of weeks of gruelling treatment, study finds
- High dose-rate brachytherapy ‘is safe and effective for men with low-risk cancer’
- It delivers a surge of radiotherapy direct to the prostate in one single session
- Researchers found using treatment in just one hit reduces the risk of side effects
- The Daily Mail is campaigning for improvements to prostate cancer treatments
A single blast of radiotherapy could save prostate cancer patients weeks of gruelling treatments, research suggests.
High dose-rate brachytherapy – which delivers a powerful surge of radiotherapy direct to the prostate in one single session – is safe and effective for men with low-risk cancer, researchers found.
The findings, presented at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology conference in Milan, suggest patients can be spared daily trips to hospital for bouts of lower-strength radiotherapy.
Brachytherapy has been used in Britain for a few years, but has usually been delivered in several sessions of lower-powered doses, requiring men to visit hospital between four and nine times [File photo]
One-hit treatment also cuts the risk of side-effects, reducing the toxic impact of covering surrounding healthy tissue in radiation.
The researchers, from the Christie hospital in Manchester and Mount Vernon in London, found all men with low-risk cancer were clear of the disease three years after receiving the treatment, which usually takes just ten to 20 minutes.
It was also successful in treating some men with medium and high-risk prostate cancer – but in up to a quarter of these men the cancer showed signs of returning, suggesting a higher dose may be needed for aggressive cancer types.
The Daily Mail is campaigning for an urgent improvement to prostate cancer treatments and diagnosis, which lag behind other diseases such as breast cancer.
Some 15,000 men with prostate cancer receive radiotherapy every year – nearly a third of the 47,000 men diagnosed in Britain annually.
But powerful single-blast high dose-rate or ‘HDR’ brachytherapy is available in only ten NHS hospitals across the country.
The vast majority of men receive external beam radiotherapy, which bathes the entire pelvis in a low-powered radioactive beam. The external treatment is given over 37 days, requiring men to go to hospital every weekday for nearly two months.
Brachytherapy instead fires a higher dose of radiation via thin tubes directly into the prostate for a few minutes to destroy the cancer cells.
Because it is much more targeted, it spares healthy tissue from radiation.
Some 15,000 men with prostate cancer receive radiotherapy every year – nearly a third of the 47,000 men diagnosed in Britain annually. But powerful single-blast high dose-rate or ‘HDR’ brachytherapy is available in only ten NHS hospitals across the country [File photo]
Brachytherapy has been used in Britain for a few years, but has usually been delivered in several sessions of lower-powered doses, requiring men to visit hospital between four and nine times.
But the researchers, who tracked 441 men receiving the single-dose version, found it was safe and effective, at least for those with low-risk cancer.
Researcher Dr Hannah Tharmalingam said: ‘These results indicate that high dose-rate brachytherapy is a safe and effective treatment for men with low-risk prostate cancer but further research is needed in medium- and high-risk patients to see if the results can be improved with a higher dose.
‘This type of treatment offers an attractive alternative to surgery or other forms of radiotherapy as it has a comparatively low risk of side effects.
‘It is also a patient-friendly option because the treatment can be given quickly at a single hospital visit.’
Experts last night welcomed the findings.
Dr Bradley Pieters, chair of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology brachytherapy committee, said: ‘This research suggests that a single treatment of high dose-rate brachytherapy could be a very good option for many men with prostate cancer.
‘The technology and expertise needed to deliver this treatment is not yet available in all cancer centres. However, given that it may offer time and money savings for hospitals as well as benefits to patients, there is a good argument for investing in this type of radiotherapy.’