New jab may be a game changer for thousands of prostate cancer patients
- Scientists at King’s College London invent new jab to fight prostate cancer cells
- They will create a man-made version of a naturally occurring protein called IL-15
- They aim to start a trial involving 20 men with advanced prostate cancer at Guy’s Hospital in London next year
A radical new treatment for prostate cancer in which injections into the tumour boost the immune system to kill malignant cells has been hailed as a potential ‘game-changer’.
While so-called immunotherapies have become available over the past few years to battle tumours in the kidneys, lungs and other organs, none has been suitable for prostate cancer, which kills 12,000 men a year.
But now scientists at King’s College London have come up with a new method, injecting a man-made version of a naturally occurring protein called IL-15 – which increases the number and vigour of cancer-fighting cells.
At the moment, almost three-quarters of men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer die within five years, meaning they have worse survival rates than those with many other cancers [File photo]
They aim to start a trial involving 20 men with advanced prostate cancer at Guy’s Hospital in London next year, with backing from the Prostate Cancer Research Centre (PCRC).
The hope is to shrink prostate cancer tumours but also to provide lasting protection against the disease.
Our cells naturally contain minute amounts of IL-15 but injecting it directly into the tumour boosts levels of the protein which helps the immune system attack the cancer.
The PCRC is launching a fundraising campaign for the trial fronted by comedian Stephen Fry, who revealed he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in February.
Our cells naturally contain minute amounts of IL-15 but injecting it directly into the tumour boosts levels of the protein which helps the immune system attack the cancer, seen above [File photo]
Fry, 61, who is making a good recovery after having his prostate removed, said: ‘I am supporting PCRC because we really need to invest in research to help men who are diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
‘Immunotherapy and other treatments like it offer real hope to prostate cancer sufferers.’
He will launch the campaign in a BBC Radio 4 appeal today, which also features businessman Martin Dallison, who died of the disease last month aged 56 – four years after being diagnosed.
At the moment, almost three-quarters of men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer die within five years, meaning they have worse survival rates than those with many other cancers.
The low tech key to saving lives
Doctors have found a simple way to free up NHS beds and even save lives – by moving a swab-testing machine from the lab to the hospital’s A&E department.
The move cuts down the wait for results showing whether a patient has a potentially lethal bacterial infection – or just flu – from two days to under an hour.
It means treatment can be administered more quickly – while low-risk patients can be sent home.
The findings come after a pilot scheme at Watford General Hospital.
Dr Kay Roy, a respiratory consultant, said: ‘Taking the sample to the lab meant it was sometimes taking us two days to get the result. Now the nurse can quickly do a swab of the nose and throat and get a result in 43 minutes.’
A trial found a third of those tested were at ‘low risk’ – typically young with just a cold or flu.
The results were presented earlier this month at the British Thoracic Society.
One of the reasons is that they have relatively limited treatment options once the cancer has spread to other organs.
Senior research fellow Dr Christine Galustian said she hoped the immunotherapy technique will change that – helping such men live significantly longer.
Early lab trials have managed to shrink tumours by more than half, she said.
There is also evidence that targeting the main tumour ‘teaches’ the immune system to launch a ‘search- and-destroy’ mission for other tumours and prostate cancer cells elsewhere in the body.
Injecting the protein directly into the tumour, using image guiding for precision, helps minimise the amount of the substance circulating in the body at large, so minimising side effects.
Dr Galustian added: ‘This has the potential to be a real game-changer for men with prostate cancer.’