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Health Team

New prostate-cancer treatment ditches chemo, surgery

Posted October 1, 2009 4:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2009 6:49 p.m. EDT

— Chemotherapy and surgery could become a thing of the past for men with prostate cancer.

UNC Hospitals and Duke University Medical Center are studying a minimally invasive treatment for the disease, which kills one in 35 men.

Robert Johnson got referred to the trials after a prostate-specific antigen blood test and an early screening indicated he has prostate cancer.

He and other participants are undergoing a procedure called high-intensity, focused ultrasound, or HIFU.

"The positives: You don't have to go through radiation and chemotherapy" or surgery, Johnson said.

The patient is under an anesthetic while a robotically controlled ultrasound goes in the rectum close to the prostate.

"Then, instead of using an imaging frequency for an ultrasound that allows us to look at the prostate, it uses a different frequency that allows us to heat and kill the prostate," said Dr. Eric Wallen, an urologic oncologist at UNC Hospitals.

HIFU is very accurate and spares tissue around the prostate. The gland eventually sloughs off and passes out of the body naturally.

HIFU has been available in Europe and other parts of the world for several years, but it will likely take another 2½ years to get approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Johnson said he experienced some minor side-effects after the procedure, but five months later, he feels 100 percent.

"I feel like I've been restored. My life has been restored to me," he said.

Patients are being recruited at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and at Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. Eligibility criteria include being 60 years of age or older, organ-confined disease and a PSA level of less than 10.

For more information about the trial and eligibility criteria, call 1-800-288-0031 or go to PCA Research's Web site.