11:51 AM

New Prostate Cancer Treatment Protects Organs at Risk

With SpaceOAR, prostate cancer patients have stronger radiation treatments while also protecting sensitive organs from radiation

Most men being treated for prostate cancer need daily radiation therapy over nine weeks. “That’s a huge inconvenience,” says Charles Andrews, MD, director of radiation oncology at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono. “We’re trying toshorten courses of treatment down to five or five-and-a-half weeks.”

But how? By increasing the radiation dosage with stereotactic body radiotherapy or SBRT. However, higher radiation comes with possible complications, simply due to human anatomy. “The prostate sits between the rectum and the bladder – and the rectum is probably the most sensitive organ to radiation,” Andrews says. “Too high a dose, and the patient can have long-term issues like pain or bleeding that might require medical intervention, so we need to prevent that from happening.”

Creating protective space

Enter SpaceOAR® or the Spacing Organs at Risk system. It protects the rectum from radiation, in the way a dentist protects your neck and chest when you get dental X-rays.

Instead of a lead blanket, SpaceOAR is an injectable gel that solidifies on contact. It is delivered during a procedure similar to the way a prostate biopsy is done. “Often during that same procedure, we’re inserting markers into the prostate that our machine uses to track the target tissue during treatment,” Andrews explains. Those markers are like an internal GPS system so the treatment precisely finds the prostate. The SpaceOAR material forms a barrier between the prostate and rectum keeping the rectum outside the treatment zone. Over time, after the treatment is finished, SpaceOAR dissolves.

SBRT significantly shortens treatment time frame

Board-certified radiation oncologist Dennis Sopka, MD, with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates, says SBRT provides the same typeof treatment some seek from Cyberknife® – with an important difference. “This system allows us to deliver the same type of treatment one would expect from that system, with equal or greater expected efficacy, but in a significantly shorter treatment time.” With the SpaceOAR barrier, SBRT can eradicate cancer, without harming nearby organs.

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) is the first health system locally to offer SpaceOAR to patients. It’s already in use at LVH–Pocono and will be available starting in the fall at LVH–Cedar Crest. “It’s more convenient and much more time-sensitive for patients to be able to do this here at LVHN,” Sopka says.