In Australia, a new software technology for radiotherapy units promises to cut down prostate cancer treatment times from 40 to only 5 visits by detecting tumor movements in real time.
Radiotherapy is a standard cancer treatment that works by delivering certain doses of radiation from a machine like linear accelerators to the targeted cancer cells, destroying them by breaking their DNA.
Over the years, the technology has significantly improved, and in Australia where more than 17,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually, there is existing equipment that guarantees better accuracy, but it costs a lot of money.
On March 21, Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG), with University of Sydney as the primary sponsor, launched its 15.01 SPARK clinical trial using Kilovoltage Intrafraction Monitoring (KIM) software for patients treated with stereotactic prostate adaptive radiotherapy.
TROG's KIM sounds more practical since the software can be installed in any kind of radiotherapy unit. Moreover, unlike in the current setup where the machine has to be calibrated first before it can be used, KIM captures tumor shifts as the treatment proceeds. For prostate cancer, this is significant since the tumor has the tendency to move during treatment.
"If the prostate moves during treatment, then it can actually get outside of the area we're focusing on, which can be the worst of both worlds in that not only are we missing the tumor, but we're starting to hit healthy tissues and potentially increase the chance of causing side effects," clinical trial co-chair Jarad Martin said. Martin is also a radiotherapy oncologist working at Calvary Mater Hospital in Newcastle, NSW, one of the treatment centers chosen for the clinical trial.
Once the software works, the radiologist now has the option to press pause in case the tumor moves and then realign the beam to the tumor's new location.
TROG is currently looking for 48 volunteers with early-stage prostate cancer for the trial, which is expected to end by August 2017. One of them, Steve McCluskey, is excited to try it out. "I'm a great believer in new technology. I think it's fantastic," he said when told of KIM.
If the trial is successful, the team hopes to test KIM for other types of cancer and adopt it worldwide.