Thrive by IU Health

July 30, 2021

A quicker treatment for prostate cancer

IU Health Arnett Hospital

A quicker treatment for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer of men in the United States with around 250,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Prostate cancer can only develop in males, as the prostate gland is not present in women.

Charlie Ewing was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2020, after an annual exam. He was shocked since there was no family history. But he admits to, “not being too worried as things happen all the time.”

Matthew Orton

Ewing then had an appointment with Matthew Orton, MD, a radiation oncologist at IU Health Arnett Cancer Center. Dr. Orton offered him the typical radiation treatment of 15 minutes every day for 28 days, or he could try a new treatment that would be only 5 visits. Ewing decided that was a no brainer since he lives 30 miles away in White County.

“He explained everything to me up front, telling me exactly what would happen every step of the way,” shared Ewing.

The new treatment is prostate stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) that uses the Calypso Localization System which helps doctors deliver focused doses of radiation with greater accuracy to prostate cancer patients that are receiving external beam radiation therapy.


Three tiny transponder “beacons,” each the size of a grain of rice, are placed inside the prostate. These beacons enable the radiation therapist to know exactly where the prostate is every second of the treatment. This precision ensures that the radiation is focused on the tumor and allows the doctors to give a higher dosage of radiation per treatment visit which cuts down on the number of visits.

Calypso markers

“The Calypso Localization System basically works like a GPS to help us more accurately target the cancer. It's common for the prostate to move around a little even with slight movements like breathing. And this can make it hard for us to be sure that the radiation is hitting exactly where it should be during the entire treatment,” explained Orton. “Prior to investing in this technology, doctors had no way of knowing exactly where the prostate was during the middle of the treatment without stopping to perform additional X-ray images every few seconds, which is not only time-consuming but also costly for patients.”

Calypso Machine

Ewing had a fifteen-minute outpatient surgery to place the beacons then he started his treatment. He received 5 treatments every other day for 15 minutes like clockwork. He was so excited on his last treatment day that he brought candy for the entire staff as a thank you for such great care.

The shorter treatment plan is well tolerated with mild urinary irritation that resolves quickly. Three weeks after completing his treatment plan, Ewing reports that he still likes to take a nap every day. His last test showed that everything was well, which is a relief.

While the Calypso Localization System has only been used for helping treat prostate cancer so far, Dr. Orton is excited about all the treatments it's capable of benefiting.

"Those beacons can also be placed within the liver, and they are now approved to be placed in lung tumors so there are some potential applications that we have not yet explored," said Orton. "It's just another way to be able to deliver radiation in a more targeted way so that we can minimize damage to normal tissues."

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