Prostate cancer sufferers could be treated with ultrasound to avoid side effects, major study finds

by Phoebe Southworth 29 May 2020

Thousands of men whose cancer has recurred after radiotherapy could benefit from focal therapy, which is available on the NHS.

Prostate cancer sufferers could be treated with ultrasound to avoid the life-changing side effects which can result from drugs or invasive surgery, a study has found.

Thousands of men whose cancer has recurred after radiotherapy could benefit from focal therapy, which is available on the NHS and involves ultrasound-generated heat being projected into the body, targeting cancerous tissue without breaking the skin.

While potential side effects from traditional treatments include incontinence, diabetes and bowel damage, the patient is able to return home the same day with a significantly lower risk of complications.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers at Imperial College London found that of 356 men in the UK who were treated with focal therapy, three quarters did not experience a progression in their illness in the following six years.

Meanwhile, less than one in 100 experienced significant complications.

The treatment could benefit 10,000 men in the UK with recurrent prostate cancer and a further 12,000 whose illness is at an early stage.

Professor Hashim Ahmed, from Imperial College London, said: “Radiotherapy is effective in most men but for the thousands of men with recurrent prostate cancer after radiotherapy, the options are very limited.

“Focal therapy for these patients offers a treatment for their cancer that does not carry the high risk of side-effects from traditional hormones or major surgery.”

Professor Ahmed said there is a lack of awareness that this treatment exists, despite it being available on the NHS.

“I think this study will raise awareness and reassure oncologists who normally look after such patients that this is an effective and safe option,” he added.

Paul Sayer, from the UK prostate cancer charity Prost8,  who himself has undergone focal therapy, said men need to be much better informed about the therapy so they can decide whether to ask for it to be used on them.  

“The study is great news, but sadly most men will not even be told about this treatment option, even though it is available via the NHS, and we want to change that as soon as possible,” he said.

“The saddest fact is that most men who see a urology consultant at their local hospital following a prostate cancer diagnosis will only be offered the ‘tools’ that the hospital has in its tool box – either radiotherapy or surgery.

“I fought for focal therapy despite being told, falsely, that I wasn’t suitable for it. I had the advantage of having researched my options in advance so was able to dispute what I was being told, whereas most men don’t.”

Courtesy of The Telegraph 29 May 2020