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New prostate cancer procedure is helping to improve radiotherapy patients' quality of life

Philip Kirk

UHDB is one of only a handful of Trusts in the UK now offering a brand new procedure designed to improve the quality of life of prostate cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. 

The minimally invasive procedure, known as SpaceOAR Hydrogel, involves a layer of protective gel being inserted between the prostate and the rectum, so as to ensure that the highest dose of radiation is limited to the prostate only.

Creating this barrier helps to increase the effectiveness of the radiotherapy treatment and also reduces damage to the rectum and bladder, so as to lessen the chance of patients being affected by unpleasant side-effects caused by the treatment, like incontinence or bleeding. 

Philip Kirk, who has localised advanced prostate cancer, became the first ever UHDB patient to undergo the minimally invasive procedure on 4 March at Royal Derby Hospital, and began the first of 20 rounds of radiotherapy on 6 April. 

The grandfather of four is due to complete his radiotherapy treatment next Tuesday (5 May) and, while his treatment is still ongoing, he insisted that he was left with a sense of “overwhelming joy” to be coming to the end of his treatment journey.

He said: “When it was explained that I was an ideal candidate for the procedure, it was an absolute no brainer for me. I feel so humbled and privileged to have been selected and to know that the outcome will improve my quality of life so much. 

“The procedure was absolutely fine and completely painless. I went into day surgery and went home on the same day. I feel great and am doing very well now.”

SpaceOAR Hydrogel is minimally invasive and takes just a few minutes to perform, with the gel being inserted between rectum and prostate using a needle and acting as a spacer, in order to push the rectum away from the prostate and therefore the high radiation dose region.    

UHDB is one of only 10 NHS trusts across the UK, and the first in the East Midlands, to be selected by the private provider of SpaceOAR Hydrogel to pilot the procedure, with four prostate cancer patients benefiting from the innovative procedure so far. 

Philip, 69, from Swanwick, also wanted to thank the “fantastic” UHDB colleagues for helping him through his treatment journey. 

He said: “It’s just fantastic to have had the opportunity to make the situation better and to reduce the chance of having any horrible side effects. It’s left me with a feeling of overwhelming joy to know my treatment is coming to an end and I can beat cancer. I just can’t thank everyone enough; it’s almost reducing me to tears.  

“As soon as this strange situation comes to an end, I’ll be able to give my 4 grandchildren a hug and make extra memories with my family. This has helped me to do that, so thank you so much.”   

Because of limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the procedure isn’t currently available, although the Trust is planning to recommence the treatment once again in the next few weeks.   

Dr Prantik Das, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, said: “We are absolutely delighted to now be able to offer this brand new treatment to our patients here at UHDB. By maximising the dose of radiation to the prostate and shielding other areas, like the rectum and bladder, we can help protect our patients from being affected by some unpleasant side-effects 

“Ultimately, this procedure will allow us to reduce the chance of these issues occurring, so that our patients can have a better quality of life following the end of their treatment and can move on with their lives. We are very proud to be one of only a handful of centres offering this innovative treatment for patients like Mr Kirk and it’s a great pleasure to see him doing so well.”

Dr Das added: “It has taken a real team effort across our radiotherapy and urology teams to provide this new service and I’d like to especially express my thanks to Mr Sadmeet Singh, Consultant Urologist, Mike Goodwin, Divisional Director of Cancer, Diagnostics and Clinical Support, Kerry Pape, Oncology Manager, and Roy Crawford, Head of Radiotherapy Physics.”