Prostate cancer patients at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center now have the option to use a hydrogel. This new method will simplify the process for patients while undergoing treatment. The hydrogel protects the prostate during treatment by acting as a spacer by pushing away the rectum from the prostate. In doing so, physicians are able to maximize radiation to the prostate while reducing radiation exposure and potential damage to the rectum. It can also help to reduce the total number of treatment sessions.
What is hydrogel?
The hydrogel is made up of mostly water and is biocompatible. The hydrogel is safe and similar to other products used in brain surgery, cardiology and ophthalmology.
How does the hydrogel work?
It is injected into place prior to the start of radiation treatment. Patients may be awake or asleep under general anesthesia for the procedure. Patients typically do not feel anything and are able to resume normal activities immediately after the procedure.
“It should take about 10 seconds for the hydrogel material to harden and then after that pretty much done,” says Seungtaek L. Choi, M.D., associate professor in Radiation Oncology.
The hydrogel remains in place for three months during the course of treatment. Once absorbed by the body, it leaves nothing behind.
“Hydrogel is a biodegradable substance that we’re placing between the rectum and prostate which then separates the two structures. The purpose of this is to decrease dose to the rectum and thereby decrease rectal toxicities that the patients experience with radiation therapy,” Choi explains.
Minimizing side effects of prostate cancer
As leaders in research, physicians at the Proton Therapy Center are continuously looking for ways to improve the quality of life for patients and reduce the side effects during and after treatment. By using the hydrogel, physicians will be able to enhance radiation treatment to the prostate while eliminating or reducing rectal complications.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to help decrease toxicities and help improve patients’ outcomes,” says Steven J. Frank, M.D., medical director at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.