Mr McDonnell received the treatment after getting secondary tumours in his spine and hip. (ABC News: Zalika Rizmal)
An emerging radiotherapy treatment for advanced prostate cancer is showing promising results after a small-scale clinical trial in Melbourne.
The treatment could offer thousands of men with the illness a potential reprieve from the prospect of taking testosterone-blocking hormone medication for the rest of their lives.
An estimated 18,000 Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, while a further 3,500 men will likely die.
For many men living with the illness, hormone therapy is a life-long treatment, which slows the growth of prostate cancer by blocking testosterone.
But it’s also associated with challenging side effects, including weight gain, loss of muscle mass and physical strength, and menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flushes, loss of libido and osteoporosis.
In an Australian first, scientists at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre treated 33 men who had developed secondary tumours with a high-precision form of radiotherapy.
The treatment is administered in one hour-long dose and specifically targets the tumours. (ABC News: Zalika Rizmal)
The one-off dose of stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) treats each tumour site with pinpoint accuracy and takes just an hour during an outpatient visit.
The SABR treatment controlled 93 per cent of the cancer spots treated among the men.
After two years, about half of the men did not need hormone therapy, and in over a third the cancer did not return.
Tony McDonnell, 77, from Mount Barker in South Australia, travelled to Melbourne to take part in the study.
Mr McDonnell was placed on life-long hormone treatment to inhibit the growth of secondary tumours, after having his prostate removed due to cancer in 2011.
However, Mr McDonnell developed secondary growths on his spine and hip.
Since taking part in the study, the secondary cancer growths have disappeared and he is no longer on hormone therapy.
“I got rid of the bone cancer without any pain, without any side effects at all,” Mr McDonnell said.
“It’s just brilliant.”
Dr Siva said the initial results of the trial that Mr McDonnell participated in are “very promising”.
For a select group of patients
Study head radiation oncologist Dr Shankar Siva said the initial results are “very promising”.
“It’s an attractive option to potentially delay hormone therapy and its side effects in a select group of patients,” Associate Professor Siva said.
“We still need to work out exactly who the best patients are who will benefit from this treatment.”
Dr Siva said planning for a large-scale international randomised clinical trial is underway to examine whether the treatment could extend the life of patients with prostate cancer.
The results from the trial have been published today in the medical journal European Urology.