Southampton doctors first in South to use new radioactive cancer injection

Francis Sundram

Doctors in Southampton are the first in the South to use a new radioactive injection to treat patients with prostate cancer that has spread to their bones.

The drug Xofigo, which is also known as radium-223 dichloride, was approved for use in the UK in January after trials found it increased survival by around three months. 

It also delayed the onset of skeletal problems, such as bone fractures, by up to six months with few side-effects.

The treatment targets tumours using alpha radiation, which accumulates rapidly in areas of newly-formed bone where cancer cells develop and sticks to the surface in a similar way to bone-strengthening mineral calcium.

The alpha particles then bind with the bone and release short, powerful bursts of radiation that kill cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Five patients have received the treatment at Southampton General Hospital since it was introduced in March. 

It consists of six injections over six months which are administered at outpatient appointments without the need for admission to hospital.

Prostate cancer is the most common form among men in the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year, and the second most common cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer, with just under 11,000 deaths.

If the disease spreads, it is referred to as advanced or metastatic prostate cancer and affects mainly patients’ bones. 

Although incurable, it can be controlled using hormone therapies which cut off the supply of testosterone to stop the disease progressing – but the body can become unresponsive to these therapies after a period of time, when it becomes known as castration-resistant.

Dr Francis Sundram, a consultant in nuclear medicine at Southampton General Hospital, said: “Prostate cancer which spreads to the bones is aggressive and unpleasant. 

“Radium-223 dichloride is the first drug that has shown a survival benefit in these patients, as well as a significant reduction in pain and minimal side-effects.”

He added: “There are other treatment options available for patients with castration-resistant disease, however, some of these can have significant side-effects which patients may find difficult to tolerate.

“Radium-223 dichloride allows us, for the first time, to offer patients a quick, simple and effective treatment in the outpatient clinic that has little impact on their daily lives.”

Posted on Wednesday 18 June 2014