Progress Report: Steven Frank, MD

Investigator: Steven Frank, MD– Assistant Professor, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

C4 and MRI-based Prostate Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a radiation source, called “seeds”, is precisely implanted into the prostate such that emitted radiation will abolish the tumor. Recent technological advances have increased the safety and efficacy of brachytherapy but certain improvements are still needed. Current imaging methods are inadequate to assess the of quality seed placement. Improper placement of brachytherapy seeds can lead to imprecise irradiation zones which increases risk for side effects such as incontinence and bowel injury or reduce the efficacy of the treatment. Dr. Frank seeks to improve imaging technology to better assess seed distribution within the prostate following brachytherapy.

During the second year as a PCF Young Investigator Dr. Frank exhibited entrepreneurial skills. He raised $2 million to start a company called C4 Imaging that will commercialize his work and deliver improved imaging technology to prostate cancer patients treated with brachytherapy. C4 Imaging will produce novel brachytherapy seeds that can be precisely imaged by MR scanning. Using MRI, physicians can evaluate the implant quality of seed implantation, reproducibly and accurately, which was previously not possible. Dr. Frank and colleagues reported in pre-clinical studies that the MRI detectable brachytherapy seeds are not toxic and do not alter radiation treatment. This new technology will improve brachytherapy clinical outcomes and further reduce side effects.

Terms to know from this article:

Brachytherapy

A procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called internal radiation, implant radiation, or interstitial radiation therapy.

Incontinence

Inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or the escape of stool from the rectum (fecal incontinence).

Tumor

A mass of excess tissue that results from abnormal cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).