New Therapy for Prostate Cancer

For years doctors used stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy to treat brain, lung, and pancreatic cancer.

Now, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are testing the effectiveness of this treatment on patients with early stage prostate cancer.

62-old Randy Hass feared his prostate cancer would ground him. Incontinence is a common side effect of surgery, and a serious issue for a pilot.

"The top priority is being cured,” says Randy Hass. “I mean, you know, everything else is secondary to that, but lifestyle after you get done with treatment, is the next biggest."

Surgery and conventional radiation would have meant months of recovery time.

Instead, Hass recovered in weeks. He opted for an experimental therapy for early-stage prostate cancer, called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy.

Doctors use advanced imaging, like CT scans, PET scans, and MRI's, and fuse them with a patient's radiation scans.

"We can target tumors inside the body, even tumors that are moving, like with breathing and respiration, with the accuracy of the tip of a pin," explains Dr. Dwight Heron, MD, at UPMC/University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

During the therapy, tiny radiation beams hit the tumor from multiple angles, passing safely through healthy tissue. Patients need only five treatments, instead of the standard 40 or more.

"This is kind of the cutting edge of, of cancer treatment," says Randy.

This treatment is for patients with low and intermediate risk cancer, which means they will need a PSA level of 20, or less, a Gleason score of seven or less, and no evidence can cancer spread.


TOPIC: New Therapy for Prostate Cancer
REPORT: MB# 3673

BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. (SOURCE:

Estimated new cases and deaths from prostate cancer in the United States in 2013:

* New cases: 238,590
* Deaths: 29,720

SYMPTOMS: Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms, such as:
* Trouble urinating
* Decreased force in the stream of urine
* Blood in the urine
* Blood in the semen

TREATMENT: Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) is a specialized type of radiotherapy. It is sometimes called stereotactic body radiotherapy. This treatment uses scans and specialized equipment to precisely target radiotherapy to treat certain cancers accurately. SABR is usually given over a shorter time than standard radiotherapy. SABR may be an alternative to surgery for people who can't have surgery or where the tumor is in a difficult area to operate on. It can also be used to treat secondary cancers in the lung, liver, lymph nodes, spine and other sites. It is also being used to treat prostate cancer in a clinical trial. (SOURCE:


Karen Holeva, BS
Research Manager
Department of Radiation Oncology
UPMC CancerCenter

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