One in every seven men will get prostrate cancer. In America, there is one death from prostrate cancer every 19 minutes and a new diagnosis every 2.4 minutes of every day of the year!

Prostrate cancer is the most common form of cancer yet is one of the hardest to treat. The problem is that the prostrate moves. Not a lot, but millimetres can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of radiation treatment. The tumour can be missed while healthy tissue is irradiated!

Prostrate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men.
Prostrate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men.

Detection is also challenging. According to the Australian Cancer Council, “The tests most commonly used to aid early detection of prostate cancer are the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination. Neither test, used separately or in tandem, is accurate enough to distinguish potentially fatal cancers from benign tumours. Both tests also miss harmful cancers.”

Aggressive tumours require 40 or more separate treatments with no guarantee of success. Treatment accuracy has improved significantly in the past couple of years following the development of a machine that is able to track the movement of the prostrate during chemotherapy. However, with a price tag exceeding $5 million for each machine, there hasn’t exactly been a rush to buy them, despite the obvious benefits. In fact, there is exactly one such machine in Australia!

New Australian invention slashes costs while increasing accuracy!

Australian researchers have today announced the successful development and deployment of a new technology that has the potential to cut the treatment schedule from 40 radiation treatments down to just five!  The difference is the result of extreme accuracy in tracking any movement of the prostrate. It allows pinpoint targeting of the tumour.

That’s good news but it gets better… the new technology is software that can be installed on to any radiotherapy unit.

Associate Professor Jarad Martin, a radiation oncologist at Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital and co-chair of the trial, said in an interview that by pinpointing the exact location of the cancer, the radiotherapy would be safer and more effective.

“Up until now we’ve had to have quite large safety margins, to ensure that as the prostate drifts around, we’d still be hitting it with the radiotherapy beam,” he said.

“But now that we’ve got this promising new technology, we’re actually able to keep our eyes on the prostate all the way through the treatment.

“And if it moves more than a couple of millimetres in any direction, then we’re able to see that happening, push the pause button, and line things up so that we’re bang on the money again before we continue on with the treatment.

“So by being much more accurate, it means that we’re actually also able to potentially increase the intensity of the radiotherapy a little as well.”

The software, called KIM (Kilovoltage Intrafaction Monitoring), could shortly be available and accessible to every hospital and prostrate patient anywhere in the world.

The development team are hopeful that they will now be able to further refine the software so as to be able to treat other forms of cancer with the same degree of accuracy.

If you’d like to listen to the original interview, you’ll find it here