News and Events

Rambam Offers Novel Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Publication Date: 6/29/2023 12:00 PM

Reducing radiation exposure is a welcoming option for prostate cancer patients who usually require 30–40 radiation sessions. Now, Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, offers prostate cancer patients a one-time treatment followed by a few brief follow-up sessions. This novel procedure is safe and has very few side effects.

Dr. Tomer Charas. Photography: Nitzan Zohar.Dr. Tomer Charas. Photography: Nitzan Zohar.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Israeli men, and a significant increase in diagnoses has been seen in the last two decades. According to data from Israel’s Ministry of Health, about 2,500 new prostate cancer cases are diagnosed annually. Based on innovative technology, a new procedure recently became available at Rambam. Using information gained from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), physicians provide treatment tailored to the specific needs of the patient. This translates into an important breakthrough in treatment: reduced exposure to radiation thanks to markedly fewer radiation therapy sessions.

Dr. Tomer Charas MD, MHA, head of the Oncology Department, deputy director of the Oncology Institute, and head of Genitourinary Oncology Services at Rambam, explains, “Usually prostate cancer patients require 30–40 radiation therapy sessions which take a few months to complete, but this innovative procedure is good news for patients with aggressive prostate cancer.”

The first patient at Rambam to benefit from this innovative treatment suffered from a tumor that had erupted outside his prostate. Using a minimally invasive procedure called high dose-rate brachytherapy (HDR), the patient was anesthetized and thin tubes inserted into his prostate gland to deliver HDR radiation. The radiation source passes through the tubes into the gland for a few minutes, and is then removed. Within a few weeks, the cancer cells are destroyed.

Charas adds, “With HDR targeting the cancer cells, we can now treat patients whose tumors have breached the prostate pouch [known as the ileal pouch]. Until now, the best treatment for these patients has been external beam radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. However, the risk of damaging the surrounding areas is high. Other side effects include losing sphincter control, pain, difficulty urinating, and sexual dysfunction. Studies prove that HDR reduces side effects since the radiation is focused and controlled.”

The extremely precise equipment and system for performing this procedure were recently installed at Rambam. An additional advantage of this procedure is that the radiation source does not remain inside the patient's body after the session. Furthermore, since no incisions are required, patients are discharged soon after treatment, and no lifestyle restrictions are necessary. “Our first patient went home immediately after his first session,” Dr. Charas reports. “The safety and reduced side effects of this procedure are life changing.”

For cancer patients, every second counts. The Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam is the only leading medical center in the region, and one of few in the country, providing radiation and drug therapies, surgery, and additional options for diagnosing and treating all types of cancers under one roof.