For the past five years, a small group of Lee County women have been participating in a groundbreaking study using a type of radiation therapy initially used in prostate cancer. The research is getting a lot of attention after being presented to a national panel.
Thirty-six women in Southwest Florida all with recurrent gynecological cancers were willing to take a risk. Truth is, they had nothing to lose.
“The advantage to it is that it gives us an opportunity to sterilize tumors and cure patients who otherwise would have inoperable cancers or cancers that could not be treated effectively any other way,” says Dr. Constantine Mantz, a radiation oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
Stereotactic radiation therapy delivers a highly focused beam of radiation with extreme accuracy. Its precision means less risk to surrounding tissue and organs, which allows doctors to deliver super high doses.
“So if a woman has a mass and it’s sitting next to the kidney, an area we would previously never have been able to radiate because radiation therapy damages the kidney. We are able now stereotactically to focus and beam in and radiate that mass,” says Dr. Jimmy Orr, a gynecological oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
It’s unusual for a medical breakthrough to occur outside of an academic research center, but this one is community based right here in Southwest Florida. The technology was pre-existing, but no one had tried or tested it in gynecological cancers.
“This report that we presented at the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists really relates to reproductive track cancer and it’s the first report ever as it relates to using this technique in those women,” says Dr. Orr.
Now there is buzz around the nation. The study tracked these test cases for several years; the results showed positive outcomes in 80 percent of cases, including a subset of women who had localized cancer.
“Five were rendered disease free after the treatment. They were cancer free, we continue to follow along with them and we’re very happy to report they haven’t had any other recurrences now three, four, five years later,” says Dr. Mantz.
Taking a new look at technology is giving women a new lease on life.