Westmead Hospital home to revolutionary prostate cancer trial

Westmead Hospital is now home to a world-first prostate cancer trial, using revolutionary technology to dramatically slash treatment times.

Alison Brown, Dr Sandra Turner, patient John Frasier, Dr Amy Hayden and Rachel Ward

The hospital’s Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre is the first site in western Sydney to run the SPARK clinical trial, which uses new technology to improve the accuracy of radiotherapy for prostate cancer patients, reducing treatment from 40 visits to just five.

The SPARK trial, co-ordinated by TROG Cancer Research and already underway in several NSW hospitals, uses an Australian-developed technology called Kilovoltage Intrafraction Monitoring (KIM) to assess the position of the cancer in real-time, enabling the treatment team to redirect the radiation beam if the cancer moves – even by just a few millimetres.

Westmead Hospital radiation oncologist Dr Amy Hayden said the technology had the potential to transform the treatment of men with early-stage prostate cancer.

“The KIM technology enables safer radiation dose intensification so patients in the trial will be treated in five treatment sessions over two weeks,” she said.

“A standard course of radiotherapy for prostate cancer involves treatment five times a week for eight weeks. Although the side effects of treatment are generally mild, the length of the regimen can be difficult for some men to manage so it’s great to have a treatment program that is so much shorter.”

John Frasier was one of the first patients to sign-up to the trial at Westmead Hospital.

Westmead Hospital SPARK trial patient John Frasier

The 70-year-old, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, said the reduced number of hospital visits was a key attraction.

“I had cancer in my lymph nodes about 15 years ago (and was cured) but I had to have radiation therapy so I knew about the treatment and what was involved,” he said.

“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I asked to see a radiation oncologist to discuss non-invasive options – they put me onto SPARK.

“SPARK was really what I wanted in terms of treatment – it’s less invasive, much shorter and I’ve had very few side-effects.”

“The technology is just spectacular; it’s so precise and I really like how high-tech it is; it’s fantastic to be involved in something where constant study is happening, which will hopefully lead to improvements in the field.”

The KIM technology is also being evaluated on other cancers affected by motion, including lung, liver, kidney and pancreas. Researchers expect the efficacy of the technology to be known in late 2017.

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