We’ve recently awarded Ashley D’Aquino at the Royal Marsden Hospital a Prostate Cancer UK/College of Radiographers Clinical Training Fellowship, funded by The Movember Foundation. Ashley will be looking at whether taking pictures (imaging) of the prostate and surrounding organs, before each radiotherapy treatment, can help the radiographer lower the dose of radiotherapy men receive. This would reduce the impact of the treatment on healthy tissue and therefore potentially reduce side effects.
Giving higher doses of radiotherapy to the prostate can improve how well treatment works – especially if you can target the cancerous parts of the prostate to get the higher dose. But increasing the dose also risks increasing some side effects of treatment, like bowel problems. This is because sometimes healthy organs near the prostate, particularly the rectum, can get the higher dose too.
At the moment, radiographers try to limit the amount of radiotherapy to healthy organs by scanning the prostate and surrounding area, and mapping everything before treatment starts.
But Ashley thinks that because the rectum can change size or position during the course of treatment, which usually lasts seven to eight weeks, just taking images before the first radiotherapy dose might not be the best way to limit side effects.
Instead, during the course of her research, she will take images of the prostate and rectum before every dose of radiotherapy. She’ll then measure the radiotherapy that builds up in the rectum each time, and compare this with what the planned dose was.
Ashley thinks this project will demonstrate that taking pictures of the surrounding organs before each radiotherapy dose can help reduce damage to healthy tissues, like the rectum, and so reduce side effects, which can have a big impact of men’s lives. If so, this could change the way radiotherapy is given within the next three years.