Prostate cancer symptoms are triggered when a gland in the male reproductive system, the prostate, has a cancerous growth.
It often only triggers symptoms when the condition is advanced, which include a regular need to urinate and blood in the urine.
The cancer is already the most common in British men, killing one every 45 minutes, and is set to become the most commonly diagnosed across the UK by 2030, according to Prostate Cancer UK.
Now, a possible new treatment has been identified for sufferers with a particular genetic make-up, who have “run out of existing treatment options”.
Researchers at the Institute for Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Trust found that these men survived “much longer” than expected when given immunotherapy.
Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, the research found that men whose tumours had specific DNA repair defects may benefits from treatment with immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab.
“Our study has found that immunotherapy can benefit a subset of men with advanced, otherwise untreatable prostate cancer, and these are most likely to include patients who have specific DNA repair mutations within their tumours,” said Professor Johann de Bono, Director of the Drug Development Unit at the Institute for Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
“It’s exciting that immunotherapy could offer some men more time with their loved ones where they have such advanced disease that their have run out of existing treatment options.
“We are planning a new clinical trial, specifically in men with prostate cancer whose tumours have mutations in DNA repair genes, to see if immunotherapy can become a standard part of their treatment.”
Michael English, 72, who was part of the immunotherapy trial, said the treatment had “essentially saved my life”.
“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, and over a number of years I had hormone therapies, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, including treatment in research trials.
“Professor de Bono recommended pembrolizumab based on a genetic test and after only a few three-weekly cycles, we were astonished when scans showed that the tumour had become undetectable.”
Michael went on to have surgery for small holes in his intestine, and today describes himself as being “effectively cancer free”.
“With a fourth grandchild on the way, my wife and I can now plan for the next 20 years, instead of the next two,” he added.
You may be able to reduce your risk of prostate cancer by making changes to your diet, according to Prostate Cancer UK.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese, and other dairy products could increase your risk of prostate cancer, suggests the charity on its website.
“This might be because of the calcium in dairy products or it could be something else,” they say on their website.
“We need more research to find out whether eating less calcium or fewer dairy products might help to prevent prostate cancer.”
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, research has repeatedly shown that milk is a risk factor, with one study in northern Italy suggesting it could increased your risk by two and one-half times.