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Canada leads battle against Prostrate Cancer

A $500,000 grant from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research promises to propel London, Ontario onto the global stage in the fight against a major killer of men -- prostate cancer.

The grant to London's Robarts Research Institute for Aaron Fenster's three-dimensional ultrasound guided prostate imaging will help launch clinical tests with an aim to selling the technology worldwide.

"We are world leaders in this field and this grant will allow us, potentially, to go to the next stage and actually commercialize it globally," said Fenster, director of the imaging research laboratories at Robarts, at the University of Western Ontario.

The technology, adaptable to any ultrasound, offers surgeons a first-time precise imaging system in which all aspects of cancer treatment are performed in real time. While the initial application is focused on prostate cancer, the technology could also be used for tumours in the liver, kidney, thyroid and breast, Fenster said.

Fenster's team has been working on non-invasive, precise treatment of prostate cancer -- the most common cancer in men and second-leading cause of male cancer deaths -- since the mid-1990s. They have several patents on their technology and the hope is surgeons will, for the first time, be able to identify a tumour's precise location and deliver therapy without risk to other organs.

"For surgeons, the better the view, the more accurate and precise he procedure can be," Fenster said.

Urologist Dr. Joe Chin, chair of surgical oncology at Western, said Fenster's work is a huge benefit to surgeons.

"From the perspective of the location of the cancer, we are using this imaging for high-intensity focused ultrasound imaging. It just gives us a much better perspective of the location of the cancer, whatever the treatment, because all those things depend on accurate placement and there's no better way to do it than 3D."

For more aggressive cancers, the technology holds out hope patients may have the option of avoiding removal of the whole prostate gland.

"If we are able to get therapy right to the site and localize only one or two lesions, then the surgeon could treat just those locations," Fenster said.

Armed with the new money, Fenster said his team of about 15 people will set up a lab with hopes of launching clinical testing within a year. The goal is to start a London company to sell the technology worldwide.

As for the number of jobs that could be created, Fenster said it's a double-edged sword, noting prostate cancer "is a problem facing men worldwide -- if a man lives long enough, he'll most likely get prostate cancer. At the age of 90, 90 per cent of men get prostate cancer."

With those statistics, Fenster said, the market for London's technology means "the sky's the limit."


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