The Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook

The Prostate Centre
at Sunnybrook

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Advancing prostate cancer care at Sunnybrook

Sunnybrook's innovations in prostate cancer care save a man's life and the way he lives it.

It is estimated that one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Diagnosis and treatment can take an emotional and physical toll on men and their families. At Sunnybrook, we believe life after treatment should be as good as before.

We're building the Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook to help men live full, healthy lives that are not hampered by prostate cancer. The prostate centre will bring our multi-disciplinary team together to diagnose cancer rapidly and treat it with extreme precision so side-effects are kept to a minimum. Sunnybrook experts will continuously advance diagnosis and treatment through groundbreaking research.

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Diagnosis can be a confusing and anxious time for men and their families. Sunnybrook uses advanced diagnostic methods with unparalleled accuracy to determine if a man has prostate cancer and if that cancer is aggressive.
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Prostate cancer treatments are many and varied. Sunnybrook experts have advanced approaches to treating prostate cancer by using ultra-precise, image-guided therapies that minimize disruption to a man's life.
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Sunnybrook is committed to pushing the limits of prostate cancer diagnostic methods and treatments so that men can be cured without experiencing life-changing
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Daniel Sternfels

Diagnosing prostate cancer with unparalleled accuracy

Daniel, a hospitality executive, has always been an optimist, and after triumphing over an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2013, his appreciation for life's blessings has grown even deeper.

"I've gone from macro to micro appreciation. On a beautiful spring day, I see the birds, the buds on the trees and the colour of the flowers. I see the beauty of life."

Daniel's journey from fear to awakening was aided by Sunnybrook's diagnostic capabilities under the direction of Dr. Robert Nam, head of the Odette Cancer Program's Genitourinary Cancer Care Team. MRI pinpointed the location of Daniel's cancer, and a biopsy revealed it was an aggressive type of prostate cancer likely to grow and spread fast. Surgery was planned quickly.

"Even though it was a difficult time," says Daniel, "I was thankful and very comforted to know that Dr. Nam understood exactly where the cancer was and what kind it was."

Daniel's surgery was a success, and he is appreciative and grateful for time spent with his wife of 36 years, and his two adult daughters. "I love life even more than I did before," he says.

Stan Rosenberger

Stan Rosenberger is a guy's guy.

Stan Rosenberger likes motorcycle trips with his buddies, rebuilding a 1949 Ford Thames – complete with V8 engine – and camping in the northern wilderness. Stan also has what he calls "man problems." He was born with a genetic propensity toward prostate cancer and didn't know it.

After a routine checkup, Stan found out his PSA level was "through the roof." Stan saw a local specialist, who put him on medicine to treat prostatitis, a swelling of the prostate gland. But Stan felt there was more that needed to be done. "I didn't get a great feeling about it. It was like a fishing expedition – throwing a hook into the water in hopes of finding something that would lead me to seek a second opinion."

Stan ended up seeing Dr. Robert Nam, head of genitourinary cancer care at Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre. Dr. Nam was concerned enough to order a biopsy immediately. Just days later, Stan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which needed treatment right away. He was shocked. "I had no symptoms, absolutely nothing. I felt healthy," he says.

Stan agreed to a radical prostatectomy – complete removal of the prostate gland and surrounding tissue – in May 2011. He was 49. Possible risks of the procedure include erectile difficulty and urinary incontinence. "It's a delicate operation," says Stan. "It's like sewing together wet toilet tissue."

Dr. Nam's deft hand worked wonders. "All I can say is, his nerve-sparing procedures work. My equipment still works, not like it used to, but it still works," says Stan. "I feel very fortunate."

"Identifying families at risk and determining which men will have aggressive forms of this disease are two of the ways Sunnybrook is leading prostate cancer care," says Dr. Nam. "Our team here at Sunnybrook leads the way along the whole continuum of care for all groups, from genetic research to early detection, surgical and radiation services, education and prevention. The beauty of Sunnybrook is that innovation really pays off."

For Stan's son, Michael, these advances are good news. He knows he is at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. "I will get screened earlier than a typical person would," Michael says. "Sunnybrook would be my first choice, because of the success my dad had."

Bradley Chapman

Precision radiation is destroying tumours without harming quality of life

Bradley Chapman wasn't about to let prostate cancer get in the way of his volunteer work. When it came time to schedule his brachytherapy treatment at the Odette Cancer Centre, Bradley requested it take place on a Thursday so he could make his weekly delivery of bread to homeless shelters the following Wednesday.

"It took probably an hour to line everything up, minutes for the treatment, and then they cleaned me up and sent me home. Six days later I was doing my bun run," says the 75 year old.

The fact that Bradley was able to return to the activities of his daily life so quickly is a testament to the minimally invasive, highly targeted nature of his treatment. High-dose-rate brachytherapy involves the temporary placement of tiny radioactive seeds directly into tumours, enabling doctors to strike cancer with high doses of radiation.

Compared to conventional external-beam radiation therapies, brachytherapy more effectively spares healthy tissue and limits side-effects, such as skin irritation, nausea, fatigue and more. Equally, brachytherapy poses less risk than surgery of causing complications like urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

Bradley and his Sunnybrook oncologist discussed conventional radiation and surgery as possible ways to treat his cancer, but Bradley was reluctant. "I thought, I'm not a young guy anymore, so surgery's probably not a great thing." He was also reticent to undergo external-beam radiation therapy, which would have required daily treatment sessions for as many as eight weeks.

Bradley is one of the approximately 300 brachytherapy patients the Odette Cancer Centre treats annually, making it the largest such single-institution program in North America. The centre, a longtime brachytherapy pioneer, will soon be home to a one-of-a-kind suite where the treatment will be guided in real-time by magnetic resonance imaging.

As a result, doctors will be able to target tumours with unprecedented precision. For patients, this will mean more effective treatment with even fewer side-effects. Real-time MRI offers another critical benefit: It will allow doctors to adjust radiation dosage and seed placement while brachytherapy is being delivered, because they'll be able to immediately see the effect it's having on the tumour.

For his part, Bradley praises the fast and precise brachytherapy he received. "The prognosis… is pretty good, if not excellent. I'm delighted," he says.

Diagnosis that empowers patients

The Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook will provide men with fast and accurate diagnosis of their prostate cancer, in turn paving the way for personalized treatment planning.

No Tumour Undetected
Where appropriate, state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will pinpoint hard-to-find prostate tumours and help to determine a tumour's aggressiveness and plan delivery of precision treatments.

A Better Biopsy
Experts in our prostate centre will perform fusion biopsies, which are guided by both MRI and real-time ultrasound. Doctors will know exactly where the tumour is and can zero in on it with just a few biopsy needles.

Calculating Risk
The Sunnybrook Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator will use data from blood tests, family medical history, and physical exams to determine a man's risk of having prostate cancer, especially aggressive types.

Precision treatment that saves lives

The Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook will offer the widest range of prostate cancer treatments in Canada, many of which will be ultra-precise, image-guided therapies that minimize disruption to men's lives.

Active Surveillance
Through our globally recognized active surveillance program, men with low-risk disease may choose to forego treatment in favour of a vigilant monitoring program, preserving quality of life.

Patients will have access to some of the most innovative forms of radiotherapy, including high-dose-rate brachytherapy, which strikes tumours with higher and better-targeted radiation doses. Patients will also have access to a powerful radiation treatment, called stereotactic body radiotherapy, which can cut the number of sessions from 39 to five.

Sunnybrook's prostate cancer surgeons use precise, nerve-sparing surgical techniques, such as radical prostatectomy, to remove the cancer. This approach increases the likelihood that a man's sexual health will be maintained.

Research that shapes the future

The Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook will be home to multi-faceted and groundbreaking research that pushes the limits of diagnostic methods and treatments, so that more men can be cured without experiencing life-changing side-effects.

Advanced Imaging
The centre will support Sunnybrook's leading-edge MRI research, which includes testing MRI as a more effective way to screen for prostate cancer as well as to improve the monitoring of men on active surveillance.

Genetic Clues
Our prostate cancer team is aiming to develop a genetics-based test that can determine tumour aggressiveness with unprecedented accuracy.

Next-Generation Radiotherapy
Our centre's researchers will invent the future of prostate cancer radiation treatment by leading the adoption of real-time MRI guidance in two first-in-Canada treatment suites.

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Daniel Sternfels

Patient Story:
Daniel Sternfels

When Daniel Sternfels was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, leading-edge MRI technology helped to pinpoint the type and location of the cancer, allowing doctors to develop a personalized treatment plan.

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Stan Rosenberger

Patient Story:
Stan Rosenberger

When Stan Rosenberger was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he turned to Sunnybrook for treatment. Thanks to a precise, nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy, Stan was able to return to a full and active life.

Read full story
Bradley Chapman

Patient Story:
Bradley Chapman

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, Bradley Chapman worried about the side-effects of surgery. Thanks to precision radiation treatment, he didn't need it.

Read full story