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Scientists record prostate cancer breakthroughs


Scientists have recorded two major breakthroughs in the fight against prostate cancer. PHOTO: MEDSCAPE

Scientists have recorded two major breakthroughs in the fight against prostate cancer.<br />PHOTO: MEDSCAPE

Scientists have recorded two major breakthroughs in the fight against prostate cancer.

A major trial has found that targeting prostate cancer with bursts of light could eradicate the tumours of thousands of men.

The technique, in which a laser activates a light-sensitive chemical when it reaches cancer cells, could spare many patients the trauma of surgery or radiotherapy.

The results of the study on more than 400 prostate cancer patients by experts at University College London were published in the Lancet Oncology journal.

Nearly half of men with early-stage prostate cancer saw their tumour completely destroyed by the highly targeted technique during trials.

Because the entire blood stream is not being flooded with the active drug, the usual gruelling side effects of cancer medication are vastly reduced and healthy tissue is not damaged.

It is also far less invasive than the alternative options, which include either surgery to remove the prostate, or radiotherapy to destroy it, and come with risks of impotence or incontinence.

Also, men suffering from a common prostate condition are set to benefit from a pioneering new implant that relieves symptoms without the risk of long-term damage.

Now a new implant, the iTind, is designed to relieve symptoms with, the manufacturers say, fewer risks.

The experimental device is a tiny wire basket made from an alloy of nickel and titanium, which is inserted into the urethra towards the bladder during a simple five-minute operation under local anaesthetic.

The basket gradually expands to the size of a 10p coin once inside the body, and exerts pressure on the prostate at three precise points over five days.

It does not reduce the size of the prostate. Instead, the continuous pressure creates three deep new channels through which urine can exit the bladder and flow through the urethra and out of the body.

This relieves symptoms almost immediately and the device can be removed completely during a second minor procedure just a few days later.

A small string is attached to the implant to remove it. The implant is being trialled by 15 patients at University College London Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust and Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, United Kingdom (U.K.). An enlarged prostate – known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – is associated with ageing, and affects up to 40 per cent of men over the age of 50. The prostate is a chestnut-size gland that sits at the neck of the bladder.

When it swells, it presses down on the urethra, the tube that takes urine out of the body, often causing sufferers sleepless nights with constant visits to the toilet.

This can cause symptoms that are similar to prostate cancer, including difficulties passing urine, urine infections, sexual dysfunction and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.

Most patients are treated with drugs to help shrink the prostate, or with surgery – involving heat or sound waves to blast away prostrate tissue. This helps ease urine flow.

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