Queensland's prostate cancer sufferers to try new 'body GPS' technology

Queensland prostate cancer sufferers will try a new GPS system to track the position of their tumour during radiation treatment, in a breakthrough designed to avoid organ or tissue damage.

Patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital will start undergoing treatment within days now that the new computer program, Calypso, has gone online.

Radiation oncologist Tanya Holt explained that unlike conventional radiation beam therapies, the Calypso beacon tracked tumours in real time and only allowed radiation to go through when the prostate was in range.

In current practice, the tumour is positioned before treatment, but it can move more than a centimetre due to coughing or digestion.

That means a radiation beam can hit healthy surrounding tissue instead of tumour, causing serious side-effects such as bowel or rectal problems or urinary incontinence.

Dr Holt said the Calypso could detect a millimetre of movement in any direction.

"If it does, it will switch the beam off and wait until the prostate moves back into the right position, or realign the beam and begin again," she said.

"The more accurate, the higher the dose you can deliver to the right area and with a more accurate treatment the more patients will be cured."

Three transponders, smaller than a grain of rice, are implanted into the prostate during the routine outpatient procedure.

Just like a GPS communicating with a satellite, the tracking system locks onto the transponder signal coming from the prostate and follows it throughout the treatment.

Treatment time is also reduced because the machine also does the X-rays and CT scans.

Calypso gives patients hope

Four Queenslanders will undergo the revolutionary treatment in early December.

Retired teacher David Evans, 79, is one of them.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year.

"I would be telling lies if I said I was not nervous," he said.

"I just hope it will be successful.

"I am quite happy to try out the new technology and I understand it will be safer."

One in five men in Australia are at risk of developing prostate cancer before the age of 85.

Those able to access the technology in Queensland do so at no cost, as all treatments are bulk-billed.

There is just one other beacon tracking system being used in Australia, which is in Melbourne.

(Calypso GPS used to treat prostate cancer)