Belfast trials aim for improved prostate cancer treatment

New hydrogel allows clinicians to treat the prostate with a higher doses of radiation

A radical new radiotherapy trial in Belfast could significantly cut the number of visits for men with prostate cancer, researchers said.

Patients in the Queen’s University study had SpaceOar, a minimally invasive hydrogel technology, inserted prior to radiotherapy treatment. In previous studies, SpaceOar has been shown to significantly decrease unwanted side effects.

Treatment may be delivered in just five bouts compared to the usual 37, Queen’s University Belfast said.

The trial was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom and delivered large doses per treatment concentrated on the tumour.


The trial was led by Dr Suneil Jain, clinical senior lecturer at Queen’s University alongside Dr Ciaran Fairmichael, clinical research fellow at Queen’s University.

Dr Fairmichael said: “One of the complications from using radiotherapy is the potential damage that can be inflicted on neighbouring tissues.

“In this trial, we are evaluating the performance of the SpaceOar hydrogel which is inserted between the prostate gland and the rectum of the patient.

“This creates a greater distance between the prostate tumour and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumour and thus reducing the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumour such as the bowel.”

Using the new hydrogel allows clinicians to treat the prostate with a higher dose of radiation, potentially without increasing the risk of side-effects, including impotence, bowel and bladder problems.

Gordon Robinson (70), who took part in the trial, said: “If it wasn’t for this research, I simply would not be here.

“Taking part in this trial meant I was offered a high-dose five treatment course instead of enduring two months of treatment. The treatment was really successful in getting rid of my tumour.”

He said: “I had very little discomfort or complications and can return to normal life, for that I am very grateful.” – PA