A diagnosis of prostate cancer is terrifying for any man. And making a decision on how to treat it is just as frightening. Should you “watch and wait?” Would it be better to undergo surgery, chemotherapy or another aggressive treatment? The good news is that there may be a safer treatment alternative available to men in the near future.
The new treatment is called “vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy”, or VTP for short. It involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into the bloodstream. Then, the drug is activated with a laser to destroy tumor tissue in the prostate.
How well does it work?
A total of 413 men took part in a new study. All of them had low-risk, localized prostate cancer. One group of 206 men received vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy. The remaining 207 patients were placed under active surveillance (wait and watch).
Over the two-year study period, almost half of patients treated with VTP went into complete remission. This compared with 13.5 percent in the control group. Additionally, only 6 percent of the VTP patients needed radical therapy compared to 30 percent of men in the active surveillance group.
Altogether, the chance of cancer progressing to a more dangerous stage was three times lower in the VTP treated group.
“These results are excellent news for men with early localized prostate cancer, offering a treatment that can kill cancer without removing or destroying the prostate,” said lead investigator, Professor Mark Emberton.
Treatment with VTP caused only short-term urinary and erectile problems. However, these resolved within three months. And no significant side-effects remained after two years. (More radical therapy, on the other hand, can cause lifelong erectile problems. And around one out of every five patients also suffer from incontinence.)
“New procedures are generally associated with a learning curve, but the lack of complications in the trial suggests that the treatment protocol is safe, efficient and relatively easy to scale up,” noted Emberton.
The research team is hopeful that VTP will also be effective against other types of cancer, such as those that occur in the breast and liver.
The VTP treatment is currently under review in Europe, so it will likely take a number of years before it’s available on a wide scale basis.
SOURCE: Light therapy effectively treats early prostate cancer. News Release. University College London. Dec 2016.