Wheeling Hospital Gets High Marks on Prostate Cancer Study

A new international study shows an impressive success rate for treatment of prostate cancer at the Schiffler Cancer Center of Wheeling Hospital.

Schiffler joined eight other world-class cancer centers to study the effectiveness of prostate cancer treatment options. The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Gregory Merrick, a urologic oncologist and director of Schiffler Cancer Center, was invited to participate in the study with a team of world-renowned prostate cancer experts. He said the study provides important information for men with prostate cancer and their families.

Researchers compared results of three treatment options: brachytherapy, radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation therapy. The study concluded that brachytherapy, such as that performed by Merrick, is the most effective treatment and offers better patient outcomes.

“It gives men hope for something that used to be hopeless,” he said.

The multi-institutional research involved 1,809 patients with a Gleason Score of 9-10, representing Category 5, the most aggressive prostate cancer. Merrick said 147 patients at Schiffler were included in the study.

For the researchers, “the biggest surprise was that patients do much better than what we had considered,” he said.

The published report includes a chart showing curves for prostate cancer-specific survival, distant metastisis-free survival and overall survival. Merrick said Schiffler’s results were better than the average rate in all three categories. For overall survival, he said, “Ours continues to be at the top.”

Brachytherapy involves surgical implantation of radioactive seeds at the site of the cancer. With this option, he said, “We get much better local control than with surgical removal (of the prostate gland).”

Radical prostatectomy is a surgery that removes the entire prostate gland and surrounding lymph nodes. External beam radiation kills cancer cells, but also kills healthy cells, resulting in side effects.

The other research members represented Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Cleveland Clinic; University of Michigan; University of California Los Angeles; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, and Oslo University in Norway.

“It is the largest paper ever published on patients with a Gleason Score of 9-10,” he said. Regarding the significance of the publication, JAMA probably has the second highest impact factor of any medical journal, he added.

Merrick said the second phase of the study will look at patients at only three institutions: Johns Hopkins, UCLA and Schiffler.

Patients from 42 states and 18 countries have gone to Schiffler Cancer Center for diagnosis and/or treatment, he said, adding it is “probably the eighth busiest institution in the country.”

The Schiffler Cancer Center treats patients, conducts research and provides clinical trials. In addition to its primary location at Wheeling Hospital, the center has patient facilities at Harrison Community Hospital in Cadiz and Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire.

Noting that prostate-specific antigen screening saves lives, Merrick said, “It is imperative that we diagnose prostate cancer when it is still curable.” This form of cancer affects one in six men, he added.


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