Prostate cancer breakthrough: New treatment to ‘seek and destroy’ tumours could extend lives of thousands of patients
- Breakthrough PSMA radiotherapy treatment is now privately available in the UK
- American Society of Clinical Oncology experts said treatment provides hope
- 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
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.’
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