Patient Profile -Prostate Cancer
A Better Way To Treat Prostate Cancer?
SLU Begins First Study of Its Kind To Evaluate CyberKnife For Treating the Number One Cancer Diagnosed In Men
ST. LOUIS -- At 75 years old, Darrel Fouts was content to quietly ride out his retirement fishing and watching the deer and wild turkeys graze on his property in Irvington, Ill. The simple life of a pioneer sounded pretty good after more than 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. and another 20 running a carpet cleaning business in nearby Centralia.
Instead, Fouts has found himself to be a pioneer of another sort. He will be the first patient to participate in a clinical trial at Saint Louis University School of Medicine to investigate using the CyberKnife™ to treat his prostate cancer.
The CyberKnife is a modern radiosurgery treatment for cancer. Its pinpoint radiation delivery system has been used to irradiate tumors in the brain, spine, lungs, pancreas and liver. This, however, will be the first nationwide study evaluating the use of the technology on early-stage prostate cancer.
Fouts was diagnosed in October 2006.
"I'd been healthy all my life," he said. "I hardly went to the doctor at all. When he told me I had prostate cancer, I was stunned. I read everything I could and talked to anyone I could about my choices. Nothing seemed too appealing until I heard about the CyberKnife."
Bruce J. Walz, M.D., professor and director of SLU's department of radiation oncology and one of the study's principal investigators, said preliminary studies show the CyberKnife is a promising alternative to traditional treatment methods for prostate cancer, the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men, estimated to strike one in six men during their lives.
The CyberKnife uses a lightweight accelerator mounted on an image-guided robotic arm to crossfire multiple beams (often more than 250) of high-energy X-rays at a target. The ability of the CyberKnife to match the shape of an organ and track its tiniest movements allows for extremely precise treatment of the cancer that spares as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Saint Louis University School of Medicine has one of the only CyberKnife systems in the region. It was the first in Missouri to begin using the tool.
Walz said the current treatment options for prostate cancer are imperfect. They include surgery to remove the prostate; bracyhytherapy, in which radioactive seeds are surgically implanted within the prostate to irradiate the tumor; and external-beam radiation therapy to kill the cancer. Surgery and brachytherapy are invasive and require hospital stays. External-beam radiation therapy can be uncomfortable and often requires approximately 37 daily treatments. By comparison, prostate treatment by the CyberKnife will require only five treatment sessions. The treatment is non-invasive. Patients are not anesthetized and therefore are able to walk out of the office immediately after.
"In addition," Walz said, "sexual impotence is the rule, not the exception, with current treatment modalities. Preliminary studies indicate the CyberKnife may be a gentleman's best chance of retaining sexual function."
"We hope the Cyberknife will be a great addition to our array of therapies for prostate cancer," said James M. Cummings, M.D., chief of the division of urology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "It holds promise as a technique that can maximize radiation dosages to the prostate gland while minimizing dosages to adjacent structures in a minimally invasive manner."
SLU doctors plan to reproduce radiation doses similar to the procedure known as prostate implants, but only with less trauma and less expected side effects, Walz said.
Saint Louis University School of Medicine is recruiting patients for the CyberKnife™ study. To qualify, patients must be diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and have a "Gleason score" between two and six. They also must have no history of any other cancer within the last five years. Because prostate cancer is slow growing, patients in the study will be followed for 10 years.
For more information about study qualifications, contact Kathy Klebert at (314) 268-5936.