Edinburgh Cancer Centre: supporting open thinking in prostate cancer treatment options

The Edinburgh Cancer Centre – Western General Hospital Edinburgh is an internationally recognised cutting-edge centre of excellence in innovative biomedical research and is one of only two hospitals in Scotland to offer specialist low-dose rate brachytherapy (LDR-B) treatment for prostate cancer.

The first Scottish Centre to offer prostate brachytherapy in 2001, Edinburgh currently treats approximately 80 patients with LDR-B a year alongside a range of other treatment options including a variation of LDR-B, External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT), Hormone Therapy and Radical Prostatectomy.

One of the Centre’s leading oncologists, Dr. Duncan McLaren, has been working with BXTAccelyon since 2015. He describes some of the challenges facing Scottish men diagnosed with prostate cancer in terms of their access to the full range of treatment options.

“Although we have been able to offer brachytherapy as a treatment option here at Edinburgh for over 15 years and have long term data showing excellent results in both biochemical relapse and overall survival, the fact is that for many prostate cancer patients access is limited. This is down to a combination of factors that include a shortage of treatment centres and prevailing misconceptions regarding its viability as a treatment option.”

Indeed, according to Dr. McLaren, even amongst the excellent support groups for patients in the region, surgery is typically first on the list of treatment options, which establishes an early bias that can be difficult to dispel. “Brachytherapy is often positioned as a specialist treatment for selected men only, so patients tend to disregard it as they think they won’t be suitable,” he explains.

“However, the opposite holds true,” Dr. McLaren continues. “The Prostate Cancer Free Foundation established by Dr. Peter Grimm provides clear information about the effectiveness of prostate cancer treatments, allowing patients to make an informed decision. The combined research published by the Foundation indicates that brachytherapy, be that as a monotherapy or combined treatment, can be relevant and deliver positive outcomes for low-, intermediate-, and high-risk patients.”

“The biggest change I would like to see is in the awareness of brachytherapy as a treatment option, amongst medical staff, oncologists, GPs, and patients alike. Patient choice is key – and that demands accurate, informed discussion about the pros and cons of every treatment, from outcomes to process,” he says.

“This is why we value our partnership with BXTAccelyon,” Dr. McLaren concludes. “As advocates of brachytherapy, they have a clear and strong understanding of both clinicians’ and patients’ needs and remain at the forefront of supporting developments in this important treatment area.”