The tale sounds pure Hollywood. But sometimes life mimics art, right?
A few years ago, Dr. Kenneth Tokita accompanied a family friend who was receiving cosmetic surgery injections.
While watching the attractive actress undergoing filler injection, the radiation oncologist had a radical thought: Could the technique for the cosmetic procedure be used for prostate cancer radiation?
Prostate radiation treatment is one service provided by Tokita at his Cancer Center of Irvine, Calif.
Tokita knew, despite spectacular advancements in radiation cure rates for prostate cancer, that the greatest single risk for patients is the potential for “radiation burn” to the anterior rectum.
“If I can inject a filler material into the space between the prostate and the rectum, then perhaps this will provide enough separation so that radiation-induced rectal injury will be a thing of the past,” Tokita remembers saying.
The actress and her cosmetic surgeon burst into laughter. She quipped: “It’s nice to know that my face makes you think of a man’s rectum.” Tokita replied, “Doctors find inspiration in odd but wonderful places.”
Tokita has brought his concept into reality.
Q: Tell me what you now do with rectal radiation treatment.
A: I have demonstrated that a very small amount of injected filler will provide 6 to 9 mm (about 1/3 of an inch) of added spacing between the prostate and the rectum. The added space pushes the rectum away from the radiation zone, eliminating the risk of rectal injury in patients.
Q: You’ve shared this information?
A: Research was presented a year ago at the Cancer Imaging and Radiation Therapy Symposium. In presenting the research, we said that even though prostate cancer is cured in more than 90 percent of patients, reducing side effects from treatment complications remains a top concern. In the study we presented, 34 prostate carcinoma patients were administered a tissue spacer compound, in addition to the radiation therapy they were receiving. Patients were imaged via MRI pre-injection, post-injection and every two weeks until the end of treatment to monitor any changes.
Researchers found that the spacer generated an additional 1 cm on average between the prostate and the rectum, resulting in a significant reduction in the rectal dose administered and causing very little damage to the rectum. By injecting an absorbable material into the rectum, severe rectal burns, the most serious risk from the radiation, were essentially eliminated.
— By Jane Glenn Haas, The Orange County Register (MCT)