Medical Isotopes to Treat Prostate Cancer

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on the use of medical isotopes to treat prostate cancer.

A New Treatment for Prostate Cancer
Protect Production of Medical Isotopes for Cancer Treatment

A New Treatment for Prostate Cancer


When a specialist looks up from examining test results in your file to announce, "Your tumor appears to be malignant," your first reaction will be shock, fear or sadness. For the 40% of us who will develop cancer at some point in our lives, thoughts quickly turn from diagnosis to prognosis. The pointed question, "What can be done for me, doctor?" hangs in the air. We want to hear that the problem can be solved as painlessly and cheaply as possible with the least interruption to our lives. Thankfully, the field of Nuclear Medicine is making the answer to that tough question a lot easier to deliver. Prostate cancer, an affliction that affects one of five men in the course of their lives, is receiving one of the first effective responses.

The power of radiation to eliminate malignant cells is clear to those who understand cancer. Research doctors have spent years experimenting on methods for aiming radiation at cancer cells while avoiding contact with the body’s healthy tissue. A new treatment for prostate cancer does just that by utilizing a radioactive isotope emitting from a rice-sized pellet (called a seed). Prostate seeds are the up-and-coming treatment for localized prostate cancer because they’re effective, cheaper, and more convenient.

In a procedure called Brachytherapy, seeds carrying a radioisotope emitting radiation that travels no further than a millimeter are implanted directly into the tumor. This 50-minute procedure is performed during an outpatient visit under spinal anesthesia. Modern body-imaging technology makes it possible for the seeds to be placed precisely so the radiation hits all the cancer, yet very little of the normal tissue. This simple treatment appears to cure prostate cancer in 85% of patients with localized tumors at approximately half the cost of conventional prostate surgery.

Dr. John Blasko of the Seattle Prostate Institute recently released results of a study comparing Brachytherapy to the two most common prostate cancer treatments: External Beam Radiation Treatment (EBRT) and Radical Prostatectomy (RP – surgical removal of the prostate). Brachytherapy provided superior results to EBRT after 5 years, and comparable results to RP. In addition, patients were more likely to retain normal sexual and urinary function.

Better health at a lower cost to both lifestyle and pocketbook excites many informed prostate cancer patients. Yet Brachytherapy is far less common now than it will be in the near future. In 1995, only 4% of prostate cancers were treated with seeds. As word of this promising treatment spreads, demand is increasing exponentially. Many of the 180,000 or so Americans to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 may have to wait six months or more for backordered seeds to be available. Several pharmaceutical companies are accepting no new orders.

Radioisotopes are proving highly effective in the fight against more than just prostate cancer. Many other cancers, heart disease, arthritis, and even AIDS are meeting their match in treatments which utilize radioisotopes. However, progress on some of these promising treatments may also be impeded by an isotope shortage.

The stakes on this issue are high. Without a stable supply from within our own country, we will continue to depend on other countries for the supply of reactor-generated isotopes. Or worse, difficulty obtaining radioisotopes will slow down or eliminate crucial research. The end result could be a backslide in the ability of medical technology to move the most effective, cost-saving and patient-friendly treatments out to the general public.

Prostate seeds are an excellent new treatment utilizing the best of what nuclear medicine can offer. In this case radioisotopes help save lives with less side effects and on a cheaper budget. Who knows what they’ll come up with next? With continued funding toward nuclear medicine research and the right business and government decisions, many more of us may hear a promising prognosis on a disease previously seen as incurable.
Source: Seattle Prostate Institute, 206.215.2489, www.cbvcp.com/nmrc/prostateweb.html

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