Media Release

Freezing prostate cancer cells to preserve men’s quality of life: SGH launches study on novel treatment 


Singapore, 11 November 2019 – Not all patients with cancer that is confined to the inside of the prostate need treatment. But for those who do, two options are available currently -- radiotherapy or surgical removal of the whole prostate. Both treatments are effective but the healthy areas around the prostate can be affected, leading to such problems like incontinence or impotence.

A team of urologists from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is studying the use of focal cryotherapy to freeze only the cancerous tumour in the prostate. This potentially spares patients from the damaging effects commonly associated with prostate cancer treatment.

“Prostate cancer patients often find themselves in a dilemma after being told of the possible complications that may arise after treatment. This is why we want to explore a middle-ground treatment that is not so damaging, yet will treat prostate cancer effectively. Treatment should not affect patients’ quality of life,” said Dr Tay Kae Jack, Consultant, Department of Urology, SGH, who is leading the study.

In focal cryotherapy, the aggressiveness, stage and location of the cancer need to be accurately determined. This is possible with Mona Lisa, a robotic biopsy system that combines a MRI and ultrasound scan developed by the Department and an industry partner. The images have to be interpreted by SGH radiologists from its Department of Diagnostic Radiology.

During the 45 minutes procedure performed in an operating theatre, three to four 15cm needle-like cryoprobes are inserted through the perineum (the area between the anus and scrotum) into the tumour under ultrasound guidance. A gas, known as argon, is then pumped through the cryoprobes to freeze the cancer cells at minus 40⁰C.

Focal cryotherapy has been used to treat cancers of the bone, kidney, cervical, liver and lung. However, it has not been used to treat prostate cancer in Singapore.   


About the Study

SGH has recruited 12 of 30 patients with localised prostate cancer to determine the efficacy of focal cryotherapy. Recruited patients must have aggressive tumours that measure less than 1.8 cm in diameter. Post-treatment, patients will be required to return to the SGH Urology Centre every three months to complete a quality of life assessment and prostate-specific antigen blood test, followed by an MRI and biopsy a year later.

About 30 to 40 per cent of all prostate cancer patients could benefit from focal cryotherapy. The Department intends to offer this as a treatment option if the results of the study are positive.

Prostate cancer is the third most frequent cancer among men and the seventh most frequent cause of death in Singapore.


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