Laser treatment hailed as a ‘game-changer’ for prostate cancer

A pioneering new treatment can clear low-risk prostate cancer without any debilitating side effects, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology.

The treatment eliminates tumours using a combination of laser therapy and a drug made from deep-sea bacteria that are never usually exposed to light. Traditional treatments (including surgery and radiotherapy) have severe side effects, including impotence and incontinence.

Trials on 413 men showed that nearly half of study participants had no remaining trace of cancer by the end of the study period.

During trials at 47 hospitals, 49 per cent of patients left the treatment in remission. Just six per cent of patients needed further surgical intervention, compared with 30 per cent of patients who were merely monitored.

The treatment involves 10 fibre optic lasers penetrating the perineum and embedding in the cancerous prostate gland. When the laser is switched on, it activates the drug, which kills the cancer and leaves the healthy prostate behind.

Professor Mark Emberton, who worked on the trials, said: ‘Traditionally the decision to have treatment has always been a balance of benefits and harms.

‘The harms have always been the side effects — urinary incontinence and sexual difficulties in the majority of men.

‘To have a new treatment now that we can administer, to men who are eligible, that is virtually free of those side effects, is truly transformative.’

Instant analysis
This new form of treatment for prostate malignancy has been described as a game-changer by specialists working in this area and the trials on a small number of men show significant promise.

Conventional surgery and radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer often cause significant problems such as impotence or incontinence but this new approach appears to be markedly more patient-friendly in this regard. It works by a combination of a drug that only becomes therapeutic when exposed to light and 10 fibre optic lasers that are inserted into the prostate and switched on, triggering the drug.

With half of patients using this therapy going into complete remission and a fraction of them suffering the side effects typically seen with conventional treatment, this adds a major weapon to the armoury of prostate specialists and I would expect this to become increasingly available in the next five years following assessment by health regulators next year.
RH
Research score: 4/5