Doctors have used stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy to treat brain, lung, and pancreatic cancer in the past- but now researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are testing the effectiveness of this treatment on patients with early-stage prostate cancer. 

Sixty two year old pilot Randy Hass feared his prostate cancer would ground him. Incontinence is a common side effect of surgery, and a serious issue for a pilot.

“The top priority is being cured.  Everything else is secondary after that.  But lifestyle, after you get done with treatment, is the next biggest,” Randy Hass told Ivanhoe.

Surgery and conventional radiation would have meant months of recovery time. Instead, Hass recovered in weeks. He opted for an experimental therapy for early- stage prostate cancer- called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy.

Doctors use advanced imaging- like CT scans, pet scans, and MRI’s- and fuse them with a patient’s radiation scans.

“We can target tumors inside the body, even tumors that are moving with breathing and respiration, with the accuracy of a tip of a pin,” University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Chairman of the Radiation Oncology Department, Doctor Dwight E. Heron, told Ivanhoe.

During the therapy, tiny radiation beams hit the tumor from multiple angles, passing safely through healthy tissue. Patients need only five treatments, instead of the standard forty or more.

“This is the cutting edge of cancer treatment,” Hass said.

Doctors say so far, the success rate of SABR mirrors the traditional treatments for early stage prostate cancer.  This treatment is for patients with low and intermediate risk cancer, which means a PSA level of 20, or less; a Gleason score of seven or less, and no evidence that the cancer has spread.