Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. More than 35,000 men are diagnosed with the disease annually, and for 10,000 men a year it proves fatal. Yet despite this terrible toll, prostate cancer has historically not attracted the funding or research attention given to other tumours.
In 2001, this started to change with the opening of the Everyman Centre at the ICR (Institute of Cancer Research), Europe’s first and only dedicated male cancer research centre. Medical research can be a slow process, but the past decade of intensive work into prostate cancer is happily now starting to pay off.
In the month of October 2010 alone, ICR scientists published three major studies that have the potential to significantly improve the lives of men with prostate cancer. These publications reflect the ICR’s focus on both developing treatments and finding new tests to improve screening and diagnosis for this disease.
Until recently, men with advanced prostate cancer had few treatment options. Standard treatment involved hormone therapies followed by chemotherapy – however over time most men’s cancer would develop resistance to these therapies and would often prove fatal. Other treatments could be given to reduce pain, but no others had been shown to extend life.
Dr Johann de Bono, (pictured), who leads the Prostate Cancer Team in the ICR’s Section of Medicine, says there was a “major unmet medical need” to find new drugs for these men. Dr de Bono has taken a number of prostate cancer drugs to trial stage, including leading Phase III trials of two drugs that have recently been found to extend life for men with advanced prostate cancer. The regulators have not yet approved the drugs for use in the UK, but there is the possibility they could soon be administered to patients one after the other and could give men significantly more time.
“This drug improves not only quality of life but survival and very few drugs have done that before, so it’s really quite an important development,” Dr de Bono says.
The ICR’s vision is that one day people may live their lives free from the fear of cancer as a life threatening disease. With these recent successes in prostate cancer, a major step has been taken in the right direction.
You can read more about the research undertaken by the Institute of Cancer Research in the news section of Everyman’s website