Every day when I come to work, I’m amazed and exhilarated by the inroads we’ve made battling cancer since I started as a radiation oncologist more than 20 years ago. And we’re not done yet—more promising new advancements in prevention (screening), diagnosis and treatment are in the pipeline.
Not only are we able to eradicate more types of cancer, we can also help offset some of the short- and long-term side effects from some of these powerful but effective treatments, including radiation therapy. Let’s look at prostate cancer as an example:
When it comes to combating cancer of the prostate, my goal is to use radiation (x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons) to deliver a precise dosage to kill the cancer but also protect the surrounding healthy tissues and structures. I also strive to minimize side effects for my patient.
While often successful, this treatment can come with a price. The rectum and prostate are situated very close to each other. High-intensity radiation, even when precisely focused, can potentially damage the area around the prostate including the rectum, bladder and urethra. The after-effects for the patient can include incontinence, impotence, rectal pain and bleeding.
To overcome this risk, there’s a new injectable gel that helps protect men during treatment for prostate cancer, which is second only to skin cancer as the most frequently diagnosed male cancer in the U.S.
Using a gel to shield healthy tissue
I was part of a 15-month nationwide clinical trial that included more than 200 men with early stage prostate cancer who chose to undergo the SpaceOAR System (Space Organs At Risk), a semi-solid natural hydrogel technique that acts a as a barrier to protect healthy tissue and organs around the prostate during radiation treatment.
This absorbable “spacer” gel is injected between the prostate and the rectum which essentially inserts a space between the two organs. As a result, there is much less radiation inadvertently administered to the rectum through collateral damage.
This simple–but highly effective–technique can significantly improve the patient’s post-treatment quality of life since bowel function is less likely to be affected by radiation-produced scar tissue or ulceration. Also, protecting the rectum from radiation can allow for stronger individual dosages which can boost cancer cell kill rates and require fewer treatments.
We achieved outstanding patient outcomes during the trial and in April 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the SpaceOAR System for all prostate cancer patients.
CentraState Medical Center’s SpaceOAR System helps a Howell man
I recently treated a 69-year-old patient diagnosed with intermediate/high-grade prostate cancer. I recommended he undergo intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a highly precise system that delivers beams of radiation directly to the prostate, along with the SpaceOAR System.
I’m delighted to report he is now cancer-free and did not experience any residual side effects from IMRT therapy.
As oncology professionals, we want patients who overcome cancer to resume a high quality of life with as little post-treatment pain or residual after-effects as possible.
Safely shielding the rectum and other healthy surrounding tissue from radiation during prostate cancer treatment accomplishes this goal safely and effectively.
Comprehensive cancer prevention and treatment
The Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState Medical Center delivers comprehensive cancer care featuring preventive, diagnostic, support services, clinical trials and treatment, including the SpaceOAR System. For more information, call (855) 411-2262 or visit centrastatecancercenter.com. CentraState’s exclusive Physician Finder can help you find a doctor or medical specialist that meets your specific needs−from a family physician to a cancer treatment specialist. Visit centrastate.com/physicians or call 866-CENTRA7.
Edward Soffen, MD is a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at CentraState’s Statesir Cancer Center. He is currently the only physician in New Jersey who is trained and credentialed in the use of the SpaceOAR System.