Novel research aims to transform radiotherapy for prostate cancer


An innovative prostate hydrogel system is being used at Belfast City Hospital for the first time to support the radiotherapy study and improve outcomes for participants

Belfast City Hospital, part of Belfast Health and Social Trust has become the first NHS site in the UK to use SpaceOAR hydrogel from Oncology Systems as part of a trust-sponsored clinical trial.

The stereotactic prostate radiotherapy (SPORT) in high-risk localised prostate cancer trial, led by Dr Suneil Jain, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Senior Lecturer at Queens University Belfast, is assessing a new way of delivering radiotherapy to men with prostate cancer. The technique, Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR), allows clinicians to treat prostate cancer with high doses of radiation delivered with fewer treatments than usual.

'The SpaceOAR is expected to decrease side-effects experienced by men receiving radiotherapy during the trial,' said Sharon Hynds, Lead Clinical Research Radiographer at Belfast City Hospital. 'This innovative system works by placing a small amount of gel between the prostate and rectum, a prostate spacer, to increase the distance between them, thus reducing the radiation dose received by the rectum during treatment.

'The SpaceOAR System is composed of biodegradable material which can maintain the space between the rectum and prostate throughout the entire course of radiotherapy and is completely absorbed by the patient’s body over time. It has been shown to be well tolerated and to improve quality of life for men receiving radiotherapy to the prostate.'

The research is studying men with high-risked prostate cancer and treating them with five radiotherapy treatments as opposed to the standard 37-39. This allows clinicians to treat the prostate with a higher dose of radiation without increasing the risk of side effects. Fiducial markers (small metal seeds that are implanted directly into the prostate) are also being used as part of the study to allow radiotherapy to be targeted very precisely.

Thirty men with high-risk prostate cancer will be enrolled in the feasibility study and will be treated with hormone therapy and radiotherapy to the prostate and seminal vesicles. In addition, half of the men will receive a further dose of radiation to the pelvis, and gold markers will be placed in the prostate beforehand, to allow precise targeting of the prostate during treatment. The trial is expected to be open for recruitment for approximately two years.

'Belfast City Hospital is the first UK site to test the SpaceOAR as part of a prostate cancer radiotherapy treatment plan,' said Jonathan McMillian, Clinical Sales Specialist at Oncology Systems. 'As the trial progresses, we hope to see positive results that ensure a comfortable patient experience post-treatment, as well reducing the likelihood of complications during treatment.

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'If successful, the trial could see SpaceOAR become a standard practice of care within the NHS, which would improve outcomes for men diagnosed with high risk prostate cancer across the UK.'