Gold used to treat prostate cancer

A Hunter research group has found injecting gold granules into a patient’s prostate can precisely target the area during radiation treatment.

Co-author Professor Jim Denham and a team of specialists at the Calvary Mater Hospital and University of Newcastle, and have published their findings in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.

The team examined 282 Hunter patients who received prostate cancer treatment and weighed them up against patients who used gold.

With the “golden” patients, doctors inserted cylindrical gold granules around two millimetres long at three separate points.

The granules forms a triangle in the prostate under a magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) so radiation can be performed at the most precise point.

The researchers found patients who received the gold granule insertion before radiation had reduced side effects on nearby tissue, the Newcastle Herald reported.

Those who received the gold granules were patients with advanced cancer and larger amounts of radiation so researchers are happy with the results.

Denham said while gold has been used for prostate cancer treatment before, their research was the first to show lower side effects.

There were also no changes in urinary symptoms with the gold granule insertions.

“To me it’s one of the best things that’s happened in my medical practice. It’s rare to see something that works so dramatically,” Denham said.

“We didn’t realise it was going to produce such a massive reduction in side effects.”

“It’s a very solid step forward. It enables new technology to be used properly. It’s well on the way to becoming the norm.”

One prostate cancer patient to receive the gold granule treatment is 67-year-old Bob McGregor. The Hunter Prostate Cancer Alliance volunteer said it was a painless treatment.

“You only need a local [anaesthetic],” he said.

“I didn’t feel it. The biopsy needle hurt much worse.”

McGregor, who also overcame bowel cancer, did not endure any side effects.

“I was a bit lethargic [but] talking to earlier guys, they had real problems.”

Gold is one metal that can be used in an MRI scan because it is visible in a scan while being non-magnetic.

Because scans have magnets, inserting any other metal in a patient means it can be ripped from the body during the scan.

Medical research fund Mater Foundation, and an alliance between Coal Services and the Hunter Prostate Cancer Alliance were the drivers of a move last year to tour coal mines to increase prostate cancer awareness in the mining industry.

Being a male-dominated industry with an ageing workforce, occurrence of the disease in mining and mining regions is higher than average.

Australian Mining reported last week about one miner, Liz Jelley’s initiative to increase awareness of the disease by printing the slogan ‘be a man and get a check up’ on visibility work shirts.

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