This cancer affects one in eight, and 4,100 will die as a result of the disease. Fortunately, education, awareness and new technology can change the course of the disease and help patients make informed decisions about available treatments.

A Canadian innovation 

One promising new procedure on the horizon is TULSA-PRO™, a minimally invasive device that is scheduled to be available to patients next year. It’s an exciting option that offers potentially fewer risks than some traditional therapies. Those risks may involve incontinence, erectile dysfunction and bowel complications. These are problems that can greatly diminish a man’s quality of life, as well as that of his significant other and family.

The creation of this new technology evolved out of research conducted at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto. It uses a unique approach, ablating prostate tissue from the inside out using real-time, MRI-guided, transurethral ultrasound. It’s a highly accurate, targeted treatment that lasts just 40 minutes (compared with several hours for some alternative therapies) and has the potential for lower side effects. And another advantage: this procedure is performed in an MRI suite, not an operating room, and can be done on an outpatient basis.

“It is a very precise approach for treating men with localized prostate cancer that offers incomparable speed and accuracy,” says Steve Plymale, CEO of Profound Medical, the Toronto-based company that developed TULSA-PRO. “Real-time active temperature control allows a physician to heat prostate tissue precisely in order to kill cancer cells. With the reduced risk of collateral damage, patients have potentially lower complication rates.”

“There have been a lot of changes over the years, and the development of TULSA-PRO definitely ranks up there among the most exciting.”

A novel approach

“The technology is very unique,” says Dr. Joseph Chin, professor of urology and oncology with Western University in London. He also served as principal investigator for the TULSA-PRO trials over the last three years. “Inserted into the urethra, the device applies heat to tissues in the prostate to destroy cancer cells. Any potential damage to surrounding tissues, like nerve bundles important for erectile function, would be minimized. Other technologies involve going through other external structures –  through the skin, close to the bladder or rectum.”

“We want to minimize side effects and make procedures as easy to tolerate as possible,” says Dr. Chin, who has been researching prostate cancer for more than three decades. “There have been a lot of changes over the years, and the development of TULSA-PRO definitely ranks up there among the most exciting.”

"It’s a highly accurate, targeted treatment that lasts just 40 minutes (compared with several hours for some alternative therapies) and has the potential for lower side effects."

Start of a new era

Data from a 12-month Phase 1 trial with 30 patients showed that the procedure was safe and well tolerated and had a potentially low risk of side effects. Of particular note, the erectile dysfunction rate was just eight per cent, compared with rates of up to 60 per cent for alternative therapies.

These very promising results led to the creation of a larger-scale pivotal trial scheduled for early 2016 to look at TULSA’s effectiveness in 110 patients. The device will be available in Canada and Europe in 2016, and in the following year the United States, pending approval by the FDA. That’s good news for the many men with localized prostate cancer who are seeking alternative options.