- Prostate cancer care is set to be transformed by the use of the first personalised medicine to tackle disease
- British scientists are leading a global trial of a daily pill that uses a man’s genetic make-up to undermine a tumour’s defences
- Early results suggest a third of victims of advanced prostate cancer could benefit from the new class of drugs called PARP-inhibitors
Prostate cancer care is set to be transformed by the use of the first personalised medicine to tackle the disease.
British scientists are leading a global trial of a daily pill that uses a man’s genetic make-up to undermine a tumour’s defences.
Early results suggest a third of victims of advanced prostate cancer could benefit from the new class of drugs called PARP-inhibitors – potentially helping 3,000 men a year.
Experts at the Institute of Cancer Research in London have now embarked on a phase three trial of one of these drugs, called olaparib, involving 350 patients with prostate cancer.
British scientists are leading a global trial of a daily pill that uses a man’s genetic make-up to undermine a tumour’s defences
If the trials are successful it will pave the way for the first personalised, or ‘precision’, medicines for prostate cancer.
These enable doctors to accurately target cancers according to the patient’s genetic make-up, rather than the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach provided by chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
Asparagus ‘helps disease to spread’
Cancer patients could be asked to cut out foods such as asparagus and dairy to prevent the disease spreading to other organs.
Scientists believe an amino acid called asparagine drives the spread of cancer. Foods rich in asparagine include dairy products, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, asparagus, beans, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.
Cutting out foods rich in the amino acid asparagine – like asparagus and seafood – may help stop breast cancers spreading
A study in mice found those given asparagine-rich foods saw their cancer cells spread more rapidly. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, who led the study, believe breast cancer patients could be given a diet low in such foods to improve their chances. Patients with kidney or head and neck cancers could also benefit, the findings suggest.
Lead scientist Professor Greg Hannon, from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said they had pinpointed a key mechanism that promotes breast cancer cells’ ability to spread. The study is published in the journal Nature.
Personalised medicine has shaken the world of breast cancer and ovarian cancer treatment in recent years.
Olaparib was made available on the NHS for ovarian cancer two years ago after scientists showed it increased survival by 11 months. Health officials today announced women are also to gain access to niraparib, an advance on olaparib.
Experts believe prostate cancer research is lagging ten to 20 years behind research for breast cancer. But the breakthrough could finally bring it up to date. The Daily Mail has been campaigning for nearly 20 years to end needless prostate deaths through earlier diagnosis and better treatments.
Last week official figures revealed that the disease has become a bigger killer than breast cancer for the first time.
Professor Johann de Bono was among the team that found PARP-inhibitors could successfully treat breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. They found men and women with a mutated BRCA gene could be treated by the new drugs.
The treatments work by zeroing in on cancer cells’ weak points to kill them without harming healthy cells.
Yet despite the discovery, pharmaceutical companies were interested only in tackling ovarian and breast cancer. Through Professor de Bono’s persistence – and funding from Cancer Research UK and the Movember campaign – the same trials were launched for prostate cancer.
‘Unfortunately of the three diseases, prostate was the Cinderella that was not prioritised for development,’ he said. ‘We are moving as quickly as we can but it will be several years before it is routinely available.’