A pilot project here to improve the treatment of prostate cancer is showing promising results and could lead to improved outcomes across B.C. in future, say doctors at the Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Cancer Centre for the Southern Interior.
Dr. Ross Halperin, professional practice leader in radiation oncology at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s centre, told a fund-raising B.C. Cancer Foundation luncheon in Kelowna that the high-dose rate brachytherapy pilot project could prove superior to current treatments used to fight prostate cancer.
The treatment, which sends radiation through tiny catheters placed in the prostate gland, may have fewer side effects than the traditional method of implanting tiny irradiated “seeds” in the prostate to fight the disease, said Halperin.
The pilot project, led here by internationally regarded radiation oncologist Dr. Juanita Krook has already treated 15 men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The first patient in the program, Ralph Ormerod, said he was very pleased with the procedure and the outcome, noting he went from diagnosis last year to completing his full treatment in just seven months.
“I now ride my mountain bike three times a week and I feel great,” said Ormerod, 63.
He said he was particularly pleased that the new treatment allowed his doctor to isolate areas of the prostate for radiation, a move Halperin said can keep other more sensitive parts like the urethra from being hit with high doses of radiation.
In B.C., prostate cancer strikes one in eight men and the brachytherapy program that currently exists at KGH (using planted seeds) has seen the number of patients its sees increase every year since it started in 2004. Last year 138 men were treated at the unit.
Based on the findings of the HDR brachytherapy project here, it will be used across B.C. to treat prostate cancer sufferers in future.
It is already being used in Ontario and Quebec and has shown good results, said Halperin.
The treatment also shows promise for the treatment of breast cancer in women, said Halperin.
At the luncheon, he stressed the need for philanthropy to assist research when it comes to cancer treatments such as the pilot project here.
While Canada has some of the best cancer treatment outcomes in the world and B.C. has some of the best in the country, provincial funds pay for operational costs and some equipment, not research.
Money for research comes mainly from donations collected by groups like the B.C. Cancer Foundation and passed onto to the B.C. Cancer Agency.
At the luncheon, which the foundation wants to turn into an annual event, $13,000 was raised in 90 minutes and added to by a $10,000 donation from local businessman Brad Field. The Bank Of Montreal was also recognized for a $10,000 donation.
The HDR brachytherapy pilot project, which started in June and is now moving into its second phase looking at possible side effects, was funded by a local anonymous donor who put up $225,000.