A new type of radiation therapy, which has been hailed as an “important step forward” in treating prostate cancer patients, has been made available for the first time at The James Cook University Hospital.
Radioactive radium 223 is used to treat prostate cancer which has spread to the bones and specifically targets tumours with less pain and fewer side effects.
It is given by injections into the vein and travels in the blood system to the bones, killing the cancer cells which, because they are more active than normal bone cells, are more likely to be targeted by the radium.
The injection, which is given in an outpatient setting, is normally repeated every four weeks up to six times and patients can go home immediately afterwards.
Already two men are receiving radium treatment at the Middlesbrough hospital and between 30 and 40 patients a year will benefit from this new service.
Head of nuclear medicine Mark Richardson said: “The body handles radium in the same way as calcium. Like calcium it is taken up by active bone cells so this is a very good way of targeting bone cancer cells.
The drug is injected through a cannula by the nuclear medicine practitioner and, because cancer cells are more active than normal bone cells, they take it up.
This also means that the side effects are minimal, because healthy cells aren’t damaged.”
Consultant clinical oncologist Clive Peedell added: “This treatment specifically targets prostate cancers that have spread to the bone, and the fact that it causes minimal damage to healthy tissue makes this an important step forward.
“The drug was approved for use in the UK by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) at the end of last year. Until now, similar treatments have been limited to symptom control rather than improving survival but this drug enables men to live longer and experience less pain and fewer side-effects, giving them a better quality of life.”