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UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis offers new brachytherapy treatment for prostate cancer

Potentially safer, more effective

older Hispanic couple embracing in park
The new brachytherapy technique in use at UC Davis Cancer Center allows the physician to directly monitor the radiation dose, thus making it potentially safer and more effective than other prostate-seed procedures.

In the fight against prostate cancer, accuracy is key to effective treatment.

Especially when radiation therapy is used to kill tumor cells, a precisely delivered dose can improve cure rates — and lessen the chances for unwanted side effects.

For patients with prostate cancer at an early stage and that has not spread beyond the prostate, UC Davis Cancer Center now offers a new generation of brachytherapy, a type of treatment in which radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate, slowly delivering radiation to the target over several months.

The new therapy option rounds out the cancer center’s full armamentarium to treat prostate cancer, the leading cancer in men. About one in six men over age 50 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

At UC Davis Cancer Center, where an estimated 250 patients seek care for prostate cancer each year, a multidisciplinary group of specialists works on the best options for each individual patient. For patients considered low-risk, these include watchful waiting, surgery, external beam radiation and brachytherapy.

The next wave of radiation treatment

While typical radiation can require up to 40 visits, brachytherapy is a one-time procedure that lasts just two to three hours.

Although brachytherapy is not new, interest in the approach has increased more recently because of published data demonstrating excellent long-term outcomes comparable to other options. More sophisticated software used to plan the procedure has further improved accuracy and effectiveness. Urinary side effects may be more pronounced with this approach and remain drawbacks. These include urgency, frequency and, possibly, retention of urine.

Richard Valicenti, chair of the cancer center’s radiation oncology department, said the UC Davis brachytherapy program represents the “next wave” of radiation treatment, which requires fewer steps to deliver the seed implant. The newer technique replaces the need for preplanning, allowing all the imaging and treatment data to be directly obtained from the patient during the procedure. It also allows the physician to directly monitor the radiation dose, thus making it potentially safer and more effective than other prostate-seed procedures.

Valicenti said while both external beam radiation and brachytherapy are highly effective, brachytherapy takes less time. While typical radiation can require up to 40 visits, brachytherapy is a one-time procedure that lasts just two to three hours. The low-energy seeds are permanent, and do not need to be removed because their radioactivity wanes over time.

'Doing normal work the next day'

UC Davis Cancer Center
In a study published last year in the journal Urology, UC Davis oncologists demonstrated that 96 percent of low-risk prostate cancer patients who underwent brachytherapy remained disease-free after five years.

UC Davis prostate cancer patient Michael Redman was one of the first to take advantage of the new brachytherapy approach. The Rio Linda 68-year-old said he preferred brachytherapy to traditional radiation, which he had been told would require daily visits for more than six weeks.

“It was very easy,” he said. “When it was over, I went home and followed the guidelines. It seems like a procedure that really didn’t have any side effects. I was doing normal work the next day.”

Redman also liked the fact that his brother, who had brachytherapy for his prostate cancer, was still disease-free after six years.

96 percent disease-free after five years

Valicenti, a renowned expert in radiation treatments for prostate cancer and other tumors, has shown the benefits of brachytherapy. In a study published last year in the journal Urology, Valicenti and colleagues demonstrated that 96 percent of low-risk prostate cancer patients who underwent brachytherapy remained disease-free after five years.

“These results, as well as those from many other experienced radiation oncologists, consistently demonstrate excellent tumor control and relatively acceptable side effects for prostate seed implants,” Valicenti said. “We are really pleased to be able to offer this to our prostate cancer patients.”

About the Department of Radiation Oncology:
The Department of Radiation Oncology is located within the National Cancer Institute-designated UC Davis Cancer Center, which cares for 9,000 adults and children each year from throughout the Central Valley and inland Northern California. The Department of Radiation Oncology has a state-of-the-art facility and technologies, and offers high-quality patient care, provides progressive educational programs, and conducts basic and clinical research on innovative therapies. For more information, visit www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/radonc.