Prostate cancer breakthrough: New drug could add two years to terminal patients lives | Science | News


Researchers trialled a group of terminally ill men on pembrolizumab and found 1.6 percent of the men as ‘super responders’ because their disease disappeared on scans afterwards. The men were surviving even 22 months after starting the trial despite an exceedingly poor prognosis prior to the trial. All together over a quarter of all men trialled showed evidence of improvement, meaning the drug could be a new source of hope for those existing with a terminal diagnosis.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology the study indicates that the most dramatic responses were seen in patients whose tumours had mutations in genes involved in repairing DNA.

Researchers are now looking at whether this group might especially benefit from immunotherapy.

The drug trialled Pembrolizumad , is already seeing some use in the NHS as a treatment for skin, bladder and lung cancer.

The usual treatment given to men suffering from prostate cancer is hormone therapy, which aims to reduce the number of hormones specifically responsible for the growth of any tumours.

Immunotherapy in contrast works by stimulating the immune system to begin attacking cancer cells, essentially encouraging a natural rejection of the disease.

According to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the most dramatic responses were seen in patients whose tumours had mutations in genes involved in repairing DNA.

Researchers are now looking at whether this group might especially benefit from immunotherapy.

‘But our study shows that a small proportion of men with end-stage cancer do respond, and crucially that some of these men do very well indeed.’

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The study was led by The Institute of Cancer research, London, and The Royal Marsden Foundation Trust.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Immunotherapy has had tremendous benefits for some cancer patients and it’s fantastic news that even in prostate cancer, where we don’t see much immune activity, a proportion of men are responding well to treatment.

“A limitation with immunotherapy is that there’s no good test to pick out those who are most likely to respond.

“It’s encouraging to see testing for DNA repair mutations may identify some patients who are more likely to respond, and I’m keen to see how the new, larger trial in this group of patients plays out.”

According to the NHS prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis.

Symptoms include, poor bladder control, difficulty in starting to urinate, straining or taking a long time and blood in any urine.

These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer.

Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called prostate enlargement.



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