When Brian Danter, a 61-year-old youth pastor from Windsor, Ont., learned he had early-stage prostate cancer five years ago, he chose to monitor it closely rather than risk the sometimes debilitating side effects that accompany conventional treatments for the disease.
Fatigue, erectile dysfunction and urinary and bowel complications are common for patients who undergo radiation therapy or surgery.
"I looked at the short-term options and the long term," said Mr. Danter, 61, who described his cancer as the size of a pencil dot. "I'm enjoying pretty good health and enjoying life, but it's always in the back of your mind that you have cancer."
So three weeks ago, Mr. Danter participated in a clinical trial of a far less invasive treatment that doctors hope can eradicate the disease in cases like Mr. Danter's as effectively as more traditional options – without the side effects. This is the first clinical trial of the new treatment, which uses thermal ultrasound energy, guided by real-time magnetic resonance imagery, to target prostate tissue without exposing healthy tissue outside the prostate to harm.
It is too early to tell whether Mr. Danter's cancer has been eradicated – that will be determined by checkups and a biopsy throughout the course of a year.
But while it can take months or years to recover from radiation or surgery, Mr. Danter, a married father of seven, said he felt back to normal eight days after his procedure and has no enduring side effects. His doctors had projected a recovery time of two-to-three weeks.
"For me, it was a great option," Mr. Danter said.
Similar procedures have been done in an experimental setting where the prostate was removed immediately after the treatment to examine its condition. In the trial, the prostate is not removed.
"This represents a significant advance in the management of prostate cancer," said Joseph Chin, the chief of surgical oncology at London Health Science Centre, which is conducting the trial.
The trial will treat 30 patients with localized prostate cancer, with 10 people expected to undergo the procedure at each of London, a hospital in Europe and another in the United States.
"This is not about improving mortality rate – those are already very good. This is about improving morbidity," said Steven Plymale, the chief executive officer of Profound Medical Inc., the Toronto-based medical device company developing the treatment. "The objective of our trial is to demonstrate it's possible to safely and effectively eliminate the cancerous tissue with decreased risk of side effects such as long-term impairment to bladder or bowel control, or erectile function."
Dr. Chin said he expected the trial to run for about a year, and that candidates will be chosen based on their suitability for the procedure.