Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with more than 190,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. And each year, more than 60,000 American men opt to have their localized prostate cancer treated with high-dose radiation therapy.
But, as Marcio Fagundes, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Miami Cancer Institute, explains, some prostate cancer patients treated with high-dose radiotherapy experience side effects such as proctitis, or transient inflammation of the rectal wall. “Because the prostate and the rectum are in close proximity, there is a five to ten percent risk that radiation could result in rectal discomfort or even bleeding with bowel movements, similar to hemorrhoids,” says Dr. Fagundes.
A unique device, however, significantly reduces the risk of potential rectal side effects from radiation. SpaceOAR VueTM Hydrogel (the OAR stands for Organ At Risk) is a safe, water-based, perirectal spacer gel that shifts the rectum away from the prostate during radiation treatment. When it was originally introduced in 2015, it was the first – and remains the only – hydrogel perirectal spacer approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And, notably, Dr. Fagundes was the first to use the device in conjunction with proton therapy to treat prostate cancer patients.
“When we protect the rectum with SpaceOAR hydrogel, we can more safely deliver a high radiation dose to the prostate to kill the cancer cells, while minimizing any significant radiation-induced injury to the rectum,” says Dr. Fagundes, who was already world-renowned as a pioneer user of rectal spacers by the time he arrived at Miami Cancer Institute in 2016. “It also allows us to safely escalate the radiation dose, if needed, to even further improve the outcomes of radiotherapy.” Patients who undergo radiation therapy with prostate-rectal spacing, he adds, are much more likely to maintain normal bowel function during and after treatment.