According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. More than 164,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2018 and more than 29,000 men will die from the disease.
Depending on different prostate cancer features, treatments can vary greatly based on stage, aggressiveness and individual patient’s characteristics. Treatments typically include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Becoming even more common for men with very low risk prostate cancer, active surveillance involves no immediate treatment but instead patients are managed conservatively with close monitoring of their disease. Prostate cancer screening can be accomplished during a routine physical exam using a PSA blood test and prostate exam.
For men who do proceed with treatment for localized prostate cancer, the decision between surgery and radiation is complicated and very individualized. Although robotic surgery is a great option for many men, External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) is also a highly effective treatment and is a common choice among many men. The technology used to deliver radiation as improved greatly over the last 10-15 years, but it still dose pose a risk of potential side effects. Most side effects are temporary and improve over time but can include rectal, urinary and sexual side effects.
SpaceOAR is a new hydrogel spacer, used to protect the rectal tissue during radiation treatments. Approved by the FDA in 2015, the SpaceOAR is is injected as an outpatient procedure. It is injected as a liquid into the space between the prostate and rectum and quickly solidifies into a soft gel. By pushing the rectum away from the prostate, SpaceOAR hydrogel reduces radiation injury, and the potential complications like diarrhea, bleeding and pain. The gel remains stable for 2-3 months and is gradually absorbed by the body.
Several studies validate the safety and efficacy of SpaceOAR. When compared to men without SpaceOAR, those who did receive the injection prior to radiation reported up to 75 percent reduction in rectal and urinary toxicity.
Prostate radiation has also been associated with loss of sexual function. In several of these same studies, SpaceOAR patients reported 50 percent greater chance of being able to achieve erections after radiation, compared to those without. The hydrogel spacer keeps less radiation from reaching the base of the penis and thus, preserving sexual function.
SpaceOAR is an exciting new option for men undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer.