Novel radiation therapy method seeks to preserve sexual health

A multicenter clinical trial underway at UT Southwestern in Dallas is testing a new technique that would avoid nerve bundles and arteries commonly affected during prostate cancer radiation therapy in hopes of preserving patients’ sexual function.

“Nowadays, mortality after treatment for localized prostate cancer is as low as 1 percent at 10 years,” said Neil Desai, MD, and principal investigator of the POTEN-C trial, in a news release. “By contrast, as many as half of all patients being treated for prostate cancer will experience some decline in sexual function. It is appropriate, therefore, that our focus has shifted to this aspect of quality of life.”

The new technique involves reducing the dose of radiation on the side of the prostate where imaging shows no cancer. This is achieved with the highly precise radiation method called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SAbR) along with a spacer gel (SpaceOAR) which is placed between the rectum and prostate.

Half of the patients in the POTEN-C trial will randomly be assigned the new radiation method at a reduced dosage on one side, while the remaining 50 percent will undergo standard SAbR.

This work builds upon previous projects at UT Southwestern which investigated both SAbR and SpaceOAR’s effectiveness in reducing sexual dysfunction for patient’s receiving prostate cancer radiation therapy.

“Basically, we’re trying to give men more choices, trying to preserve their potency up front. If this ends up being a positive trial, it’s a pretty big deal for our field,” said Desai, who is an assistant professor of radiation oncology at UT Southwestern.