Tuesday 21 August 2018

Fresh hope to avoid invasive treatments for cancer

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. If it is found early, it can be treated and cured. Stock Image: Getty
One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. If it is found early, it can be treated and cured. Stock Image: Getty

Ella Pickover

More than a quarter of men with suspected prostate cancer could avoid invasive biopsies if they are offered an MRI instead, a new study suggests.

Men with suspected prostate cancer are offered a biopsy, which involves small samples of tissue taken from the prostate and analysed for cancer.

But a new study found that if men are offered an MRI scan first, this could reduce the number of men who undergo this procedure by 28pc.

Experts believe more than a quarter of the million men who currently undergo a biopsy across Europe every year could "safely avoid it".

The study, led by researchers from University College London, found that an MRI scan and targeted prostate biopsies detected more harmful cancers that needed treatment and it reduced overdiagnosis of harmless cancers.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Ireland. Each year, about 3,400 men in the country are told they have prostate cancer.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. If prostate cancer is found early, it can be treated and cured.

First author of the study, Dr Veeru Kasivisvanathan, from the UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, said: "In men who need to have investigation for prostate cancer for the first time, 'Precision' [the study] shows that using an MRI to identify suspected cancer in the prostate and performing a prostate biopsy targeted to the MRI information, leads to more cancers being diagnosed than the standard way that we have been performing prostate biopsy for the last 25 years."

The trial was presented at the European Association of Urology Congress in Copenhagen, with publication in the 'New England Journal of Medicine'.

Separately, new research funded by the Irish Cancer Society means that doctors may in the future be able to spare some cancer patients the harsh effects of chemotherapy.

The 'Breast-Predict' centre has developed a tool which may predict how effective chemotherapy is likely to be in treating triple-negative breast cancer patients.

More than 250 people are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer each year in Ireland. This form of breast cancer is often aggressive, difficult to treat and tends to be more common in younger women.

For chemotherapy to work it has to kill cancer cells in the body. Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin have identified a mathematical formula on cells with triple negative breast cancer to predict how effective chemotherapy would be in killing them.

The research team now predicts that triple negative breast cancer cells may respond to a new drug already being used to treat some leukaemia patients.

Their study showed that BCL2 inhibitors can enhance the response of cancer cells to chemotherapy.

Dr Robert O'Connor, head of cancer research at the Irish Cancer Society, added: "This paper highlights vital work being undertaken to identify new ways to improve the treatment of cancer.

"This research is in quite early stages and it will be many more years until any potential benefits reach cancer patients. But it does show the building blocks required to lay the foundations for life-saving cancer research. The more we understand this disease, the better chance we have of stopping it in its tracks."

The research team's findings were recently published in the Nature journal 'Cell Death and Disease'.

Irish Independent

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