Monday, 25 February 2008

Gold Markers Improve Radiation Treatment For Prostate Cancer Patients At Community CancerCare

Marking a prostate cancer tumor with “gold markers” has improved the efficacy of the latest radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients at the Community CancerCare Radiation Therapy centers located in the John DeQuattro Community Cancer Center in Manchester and the Phoenix Community Cancer Center in Enfield.

“By placing three gold markers into the prostate,” says Tim Boyd, a Community CancerCare and Hartford Hospital radiation oncologist, “we can see precisely where the prostate tumor is each day immediately before the patient is treated, which allows us to be as accurate as possible in developing the radiation treatment.”

Accuracy is always important in radiation treatment. Physicians must protect healthy tissue and organs from radiation that kills all cells, not just cancerous ones. An especially high degree of accuracy in radiation therapy has become even more important as radiation technology has improved. IMRT, intensity modulated radiation therapy, for example, is among the most advanced and accurate now used at the Community CancerCare centers.

With standard radiation therapy, according to Community CancerCare’s radiation oncologist Kenneth Leopold, MD, radiation fields of equal intensity converge from all directions on the tumor. With IMRT, the intensity of each field changes to follow more precisely the shape of the tumor. If the contents of a patient’s bladder or rectum moves the tumor between treatments, or if the patient, and so the tumor, moves even slightly during treatment, the dose to the tumor may be compromised and surrounding healthy tissue in the prostate, bladder and rectum may be damaged.

With the addition of gold seed markers to the therapy, computer software can use the radiation beam itself for alignment and hit the tumor, which is a non-uniform, three-dimensional target, precisely each time.

Three gold markers, each about the size of a grain of rice, are placed into the tumor in the prostate during a 10-minute procedure in the urologist’s office.

Radiation treatment’s side effects have been reduced because of IMRT’s high degree of accuracy, Dr. Leopold says, and in some cases IMRT has allowed increases in radiation dose without increasing side effects. The goal of any cancer treatment is to kill the cancer with the least healthy tissue damage and fewest side effects. Using gold markers may allow physicians to strike this balance even better.

“Prostate cancer patients who undergo gold marker implantation may experience fewer treatment side effects, including bladder and bowel problems,” Dr. Boyd says, “Because the gold markers allow us to be more precise and adjust for any change in position of the prostate internally in the pelvis, we’re treating less normal tissue, like the rectum and the bladder, which may result in reduced side effects.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that 2,900 Connecticut men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, and 390 of them will die from the disease, but the good news, according to the National Cancer Institute, is that progress in cancer treatment (like the use of gold seed markers), along with progress in prevention and early detection, continues to reduce American’s risk of dying from cancer.

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