Use of small “seeds” of Palladium-103, a radioactive isotope of palladium, is proving to be a more successful form of treatment for some types of cancer than a number of other therapies.
As the second leading cause of male cancer death in the United States, prostate cancer will claim more than 40,000 lives this year alone, according to American Cancer Society estimates. The American Cancer Society also estimates that this year about 189,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States.
A new procedure called brachytherapy has been developed in which tiny radioactive seeds of Palladium-103 are injected into the prostate with hollow needles. Ultrasound guides the physician as to placement of the seeds. The seeds deliver high doses of radiation within the prostate, resulting in less damage to surrounding healthy cells. The seeds, which are about the size of a grain of rice, emit radiation for several months, then become inactive. They do not have to be removed.
Prostate cancer research presented at the American Urological Association meeting in 1997 reported that seed implants are just as effective as other treatment options for men with early-stage prostate cancer. Long-term follow-up of patients treated with radioactive seeds shows a 90% disease-free survival rate, and lower complication rates than surgery (radical prostatectomy) and external beam radiation.
Radiation oncologists at Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre (TSRCC), the comprehensive cancer center in Toronto, Canada, in September have successfully completed the first breast cancer treatments in the world using small beads of palladium.
Using the principles of brachytherapy, small seeds of Palladium-103, which releases very low doses of radiation over the course of two-months, are permanently implanted directly into the center of the tumor. The procedure is done in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia and the patient can go home after a few hours.
Researchers estimate that more than 20 per cent of those diagnosed with breast cancer each year will be eligible for this treatment once it is approved and part of the regular treatment protocol, which could take up to four years.