A radical ‘seek and destroy’ treatment could extend the lives of thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer.
The approach – described by experts as ‘game changing’ – uses high-tech molecules to track down tumours anywhere in the body and blast them with a radioactive payload.
The breakthrough ‘PSMA’ radiotherapy treatment became available privately in Britain for the first time last week – with two men already treated.
Thousands more are expected to benefit if global trials currently under way come back with positive results, providing the key to NHS approval.
The breakthrough ‘PSMA’ radiotherapy treatment became available privately in Britain for the first time last week – with two men already treated
Experts at the American Society of Clinical Oncology congress in Chicago said the treatment provided hope for men for whom all other options had run out. Without it they are simply referred for palliative end-of-life care.
Considered the most promising new treatment for prostate cancer in 15 years, it could benefit at least 5,000 men a year if made available on the NHS.
Australian oncologist Arun Azad, who is testing the treatment on 200 men in one of ten trials taking place around the world, said: ‘It is potentially game changing.
‘If the results are positive, it really will change the landscape of how we treat prostate cancer.’
Man, 77, who became first prostate cancer patient in UK to be given the ‘seek and destroy’ treatment hails it as ‘fantastic’
When Hans Schaupp was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer seven years ago, he was determined to carry on living life to the full.
‘I’m still working and running my business,’ said the 77-year-old, who has an equestrian equipment company which he runs from his home near Liphook, Hampshire.
Hans Schaupp, 77, was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer seven years ago
Just over a week ago, Mr Schaupp, left, became the first person in the UK to be treated with the ‘seek and destroy’ radiotherapy treatment called PSMA.
‘It was fantastic,’ he said. ‘Because it is targeted it makes so much more sense. Rather than poisoning your whole body with chemotherapy it goes straight to the tumours. I feel absolutely perfect. No side effects, nothing.’
Mr Schaupp, whose treatment is partially funded by his BUPA insurance, said: ‘If it works then great. It really is a fantastic treatment and it is marvellous that it is now available here.’
Dr Azad, associate professor at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre in Melbourne, said about half of the 10,000 men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in Britain each year might benefit from the treatment.
And eventually he wants to give it to patients at an earlier stage of the disease – potentially opening it up to thousands more men.
The Daily Mail is campaigning for an urgent improvement of prostate cancer treatments and diagnosis, which are lagging years behind other diseases such as breast cancer. Despite rapid advances in other cancer types, which have resulted in falling death rates, the prostate figure is going up, with 11,800 men in Britain dying each year to the disease.
Some 15,000 men with prostate cancer receive traditional radiotherapy every year. But that type of radiotherapy is used for only early, low-risk disease – when the cancer is still confined within the prostate – and it comes with severe side effects because it also radiates healthy tissue.
Once the cancer has left the prostate it spreads throughout the body, making it impossible to treat with external radiation.
The new treatment targets a protein on the surface of prostate cancer cells called PSMA, or ‘prostate-specific membrane antigen’.
The treatment contains a molecule, known as PSMA-617, which seeks out and binds to PSMA. The molecule also carries a ‘payload’ – a nuclear isotope called Lutetium-177 – which delivers a powerful blast of radiotherapy.
Crucially, the radiotherapy travels only 1mm – ensuring only prostate cells are damaged and healthy tissue is spared.
Professor Johann de Bono of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who is co-leading another study of PSMA radiotherapy, said: ‘It is a huge deal. It is one of the next big things.’
A pilot study of 50 men in Australia has shown the treatment extends the life expectancy of men with advanced prostate cancer from nine months to an average of 13.3 months. But a fifth of patients responded extremely well – and were still alive after 33 months.
Paul Villanti, of the Movember cancer foundation, which is funding several trials, said: ‘PSMA is one of the most exciting areas in prostate cancer research. It gives us the ability to find and destroy cancer.’
Australian company Genesis Care has started offering the treatment at its clinic in Windsor. Most men get between two and six treatments, spaced out every six weeks. Privately, it costs £12,000 to £13,000 per treatment.
Thousands more are expected to benefit if global trials currently under way come back with positive results, providing the key to NHS approval. Stock picture
Early use of hormone drug improves survival chances of men with aggressive prostate cancer and can cut deaths from the disease by almost a third
Early use of an advanced hormone drug dramatically improves the survival chances of men with aggressive prostate cancer, a study has found.
Taking enzalutamide soon after diagnosis slashes the risk of dying within three years, according to data presented yesterday at the world’s biggest cancer conference.
The treatment – taken as four daily pills – is already available on the NHS for men with advanced prostate cancer, but only after they have stopped responding to standard hormone injections.
The new study found giving the £33,000-a-year drug at the same time as the injections – rather than waiting for them to fail – slowed tumour progression and cut death rates by almost a third.
Up to 10,000 men with terminal cancer could benefit from early access to the treatment in the UK each year. It could also delay the need to endure chemotherapy.
Presenting the data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, Professor Ian Davis from Monash University in Australia, said: ‘The survival benefit is substantially greater giving it early, than it is further down the track. You get much greater bang for your buck.’
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 1,125 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Researchers found the chance of dying within three years was 20 per cent if given enzalutamide alongside standard treatment.
But for those only given standard treatment the risk of death was 28 per cent.
Enzalutamide works by stopping testosterone – which drives cancer growth – from being absorbed by tumours. It is sold by Astellas under the brand name Xtandi.
Dr Matthew Hobbs of Prostate Cancer UK said: ‘This is a positive trial that demonstrates the benefit of giving enzalutamide upfront to men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
‘Enzalutamide is now the third treatment option in four years shown to have a substantial impact on life expectancy when used alongside hormone treatment.
‘Some men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer cannot have chemotherapy, we want to see another treatment option made available to them.’
Prostate cancer affects around 47,000 men a year in the UK – and kills 11,800.