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Fox Chase Cancer Chase Reduces Radiation Treatment Time for Men with Prostate Cancer with IMRT Plus High-Dose Radiation Implants-a First in the Delaware Valley Region

PHILADELPHIA (November 18, 2002) -- Fox Chase Cancer Center recently became the first in the Delaware Valley to offer men with prostate cancer a combination of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and temporary, high-dose rate radiation implants, known as HDR brachytherapy. Combining these two sophisticated methods of delivering radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients will shorten the overall course of treatment from about seven weeks to five weeks, according to Fox Chase radiation oncologist Eric Horwitz, M.D.

Fox Chase became the first medical center on the East Coast to provide high-dose rate brachytherapy in 1998 and, starting two years ago, the first in the Delaware Valley region to use highly targeted IMRT alone on a routine basis for men with prostate cancer. Recent studies have shown that patients have fewer side effects during and after IMRT because this treatment enhances the precision of the radiation beam and spares surrounding normal tissues better than less advanced forms of external radiation therapy, including three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy.

IMRT allows the radiation beams to vary in intensity, targeting more radiation to the thickest part of a cancerous tumor and minimizing the radiation dose when it nears healthy tissue. This reduces the chances for trauma to the bladder and rectum.

With IMRT, the treatment machine, called a linear accelerator, includes a multi-leaf collimator that acts like metal fingers to mold the radiation beams into the three-dimensional shape of the prostate gland. These leaves move during the treatment session to modulate the intensity of the radiation dose to different areas of the tumor.

Radiation implants, or brachytherapy, are another way of targeting radiation directly to the tumor. Dr. Horwitz introduced the technique at Fox Chase in 1998, making the Center only the third location in the country to offer this procedure.

Originally, brachytherapy took the form of permanent low-dose "seeds" placed directly into the prostate, where they would eventually lose their radioactivity. This technique, now more precise, is one treatment option for men early prostate cancer.

The newest high-dose rate brachytherapy consists of temporary implants that deliver high radiation doses in a brief treatment session. Sometimes called the "smart bomb" because of its precision, the temporary implant technology uses computerized ultrasound guidance to place needles into the prostate while the patient is under anesthesia. The needles are then loaded with a radioactive iridium source that delivers a knock-out dose to cancer cells for a period of about 10 to 20 minutes.

High-dose-rate implants have been used at Fox Chase and elsewhere to treat patients with cancers of the esophagus and airway, head and neck, uterus and cervix. Physicians at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, where Horwitz completed his residency in 1997, refined the technique for prostate cancer.

"By combining IMRT and high-dose rate implants at Fox Chase, our goal is to provide curative therapy with the fewest possible side effects and the highest quality of life," Horwitz said. Using strategically placed temporary implants may reduce the occurrence of frequent bowel movements and urination, the most common side effects among men receiving external radiation therapy, Horwitz pointed out.

Fox Chase Cancer Center was the first and continues to be the only facility in the country to use a dedicated MRI treatment simulator in planning radiation therapy for all prostate cancer patients.

For an appointment to discuss radiation treatment options for prostate cancer, call 1-888-FOX CHASE.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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