Patient stories / 24 Sep, 2021

Prostate research study gives new hope

Icon Writers

How pinpoint radiation treatment gave John the strength to carry on

Like many men, 64-year-old Armadale local John Healy’s prostate cancer diagnosis came following a commitment to annual PSA testing. Going in to see his GP each year had become second nature to John after eight years of regular blood tests, when an elevated PSA result in 2016 sparked the shock discovery.

The news that he had prostate cancer was crushing for John, who had just lost his wife six months earlier to breast cancer and was raising his 14-year-old son alone.

“It was devastating to face prostate cancer and the prospect of treatment. In that situation your life is on the line and you’re kind of vulnerable. I was scared, I’d just lost my wife who was my advisor and my life partner, and then I was told I had cancer,” John said.

John went on to have his prostate removed through a radical prostatectomy procedure, followed by three-monthly monitoring appointments to identify whether his cancer had returned. He says the experience was terrifying, with the threat of his prostate cancer coming back looming heavily ahead of every appointment.

“It was a really tough time, not knowing what the future holds. I believed that surgery to remove my prostate would be the end of it. Six months after my surgery a scan picked up that my cancer had returned in the prostate bed. I felt like I was back to square one.”

Still experiencing ongoing side effects from his surgery, John was grateful to learn that he was a perfect candidate to receive non-invasive radiation therapy treatment through the Phase II PINPOINT study, delivered at Icon Cancer Centre in Victoria.

As part of the PINPOINT trial, John was scanned with the latest cancer imaging technology (68Ga-PSMA-PET) to ensure that he would benefit most from treatment directly targeted to the prostate bed. He was then implanted with tiny electronic transponders, known as Calypso® radiofrequency transponders, to allow for real-time tracking of the prostate bed, ensuring accurate and focused radiation delivery which avoided nearby organs such as the bladder and the bowel, and reducing long-term side effects such as incontinence, scar tissue, and damage to the bladder and bowel.

“I’m so thankful that I was able to receive this targeted, non-invasive treatment through a trial. The thought of dealing with the difficult side effects of other aggressive treatment options while already dealing with issues from my surgery, to me there was no other alternative to consider.”

The PINPOINT study is the first-of-its-kind to show that patients can choose an upfront treatment which can lead to cancer control but without the side effects of hormone therapy and more aggressive radiation therapy treatments. The study showed that by targeting radiation at the prostate bed alone – the region where the prostate was removed from – quality of life is preserved for at least three years following treatment.

For John, having the opportunity to receive the latest in radiation therapy treatment and contribute to the future of prostate cancer care through the PINPOINT study has been a critical part of his journey to recovery.

“You feel like you’re contributing to an advancement in the treatment for prostate cancer, while being able to receive treatment available nowhere else. Research is critical for people with cancer.”

He says the most difficult part of his prostate cancer journey has been the ongoing side effects he now faces following his radical prostatectomy.

“It was explained to me and I knew there was going to be a consequence, but I wasn’t aware of other treatment options such as radiation therapy. The lack of sexual function has been a very big void in my life but that’s the reality. However, this is much better than the alternative!”

Now, as he looks ahead to the future, John is counting down to the end of lockdown and hopes to be able to travel again soon.

“I’m originally from England and am looking forward to getting back and seeing family. I’ve been bringing up my son and hopefully will send him on the road to his life. I’m so grateful.”

To learn more about radiation therapy treatment for prostate cancer, click here.

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