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Some men with prostate cancer to be treated with 5 sessions of radiation instead of 39

May 28, 2018

Some men with prostate cancer at Sunnybrook will now be treated with five sessions of high-dose radiation therapy instead of the previous 39 sessions, in a first-in-Canada policy change following years of research and clinical trials.

Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) involves five or fewer higher dose per day treatments, delivered with pinpoint precision to target tumours.

“We have developed, refined and perfected this non-invasive technique over the past 17 years, and we are happy to bring about this change in policy so that more men will be treated with fewer radiation sessions,” said Dr. Andrew Loblaw, radiation oncologist at Odette Cancer Centre. “This five-course treatment of radiation is easier and more convenient for our patients, and it also has been found to have fewer side effects and better quality of life for patients.” Sunnybrook research has also found that men who undergo five SABR treatments have better sexual and bladder function following treatment compared to brachytherapy, he added. More research is taking place to compare SABR and brachytherapy.

For men with favourable-risk prostate cancer who aren’t eligible for active surveillance or brachytherapy and for those who opt out of those treatment methods, external beam radiation has long been the other standard of care. By reducing the number of treatments from 39 to five, patient and healthcare system costs are reduced and wait times are shortened.

“Our clinical trials and those from other leading organizations have found this to be safe and effective way of treating favourable-risk prostate cancer,” Dr. Loblaw said. “We are excited to make this practice change here at Sunnybrook as well as help other healthcare institutions adopt this technique.”