Patches ‘may beat prostate cancer’

Skin patches ‘may beat prostate cancer’

Prostate cancer cells

Skin patches which deliver oestrogen into the blood could be a cheaper and safer treatment for prostate cancer than current therapies, a study says.

The main treatment is injections of a chemical to chop levels of testosterone – the motive force of many prostate cancers – however it causes unwanted side effects.

The Imperial College London study within the Lancet Oncology compared patches and injections in 254 patients.

It found patches were safe and may avoid menopause-like uncomfortable side effects.

‘Effective treatments’

Using oestrogen to regard prostate cancer is an old treatment.

Both oestrogen and testosterone are very similar chemically, so ramping up the degrees of oestrogen within the body can reduce the quantity of testosterone produced – and slow prostate cancer growth.

However, taking oral oestrogen pills caused significant illnesses by overdosing the liver. The organ then produced chemicals which caused blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

The preferred treatment is injections of a drug, LHRHa, which reduces the production of both oestrogen and testosterone. However, this has unwanted side effects identical to the menopause in women – leading to poor bone health and diabetes.

The patch releases oestrogen in the course of the skin

Prof Paul Abel, from Imperial College London, said: “We aren’t claiming here is corresponding to current therapies yet, but it surely does appear to be we’re getting castration levels of testosterone.”

However, the researchers must follow patients for longer.

“Your next step is to check if the oestrogen patches are as effective at stopping the expansion of prostate cancer because the current hormone treatments, we’re now testing this in over 600 patients.”

Kate Law, from the charity Cancer Research UK which part funded the study, said: “More men than ever are surviving prostate cancer as a result of advances in research, but we still urgently ought to find more suitable treatments and decrease uncomfortable side effects.

“This trial is a crucial step towards better and kinder treatments that may bring big benefits to men with prostate cancer at some point.”

Dr Iain Frame, director of study at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s unclear as yet if hormone patches may be a high-quality alternative to hormone injections, but we await with anticipation the result of the further trials planned that could in time offer men hope for the longer term.”