A new treatment, using highly focused ultrasound, effectively kills cancerous prostate tumours nine times out of 10. What's more, the technique produces virtually no side effects and means patients only have to spend a single evening in hospital.
Prostate cancer is a massive killer, but existing treatments — such as conventional surgery or radiotherapy — often leave patients with incontinence or erectile dysfunction. The new study, published in Lancet Oncology, instead investigated the viability of using ultrasound to treat prostate tumors.
Because of the way the ultrasound is focussed, it minimises the damage caused to tissue surrounding the tumour, meaning there are far fewer side effects. The new study, conducted at University College London, UK, treated tumours in 41 patients. After twelve months, 95 per cent were free from cancer, just one in 10 suffered impotence, and not a single one was incontinent. That stacks up well against current treatments, which can see one in four patients suffering from incontinence, and up to one in seven experiencing erectile dysfunction.
The new treatment represents a turning point in prostate cancer treatment. Dr Hashim Ahmed, one of the researchers, explains to the UK Telegraph:
"This changes the paradigm. By focusing just on the areas of cancer we reduce the collateral damage to surrounding tissue... Our results are very encouraging. We're optimistic that men diagnosed with prostate cancer may soon be able to undergo a day case surgical procedure, which can be safely repeated once or twice, to treat their condition with very few side-effects. That could mean a significant improvement in their quality of life."
The treatment is still in development, and is currently only available within clinical trials. The researchers are, however, pushing on with larger-scale trials, and it's hoped the technique could be offered routinely within the next five years. [Lancet Oncology and Telegraph]