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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
HRT patches tackle prostate cancer
patch on arm
A patch could help people with prostate cancer
Patches normally used by women to relieve menopausal symptoms could help men with prostate cancer as well.

A study carried out by researchers at Hammersmith Hospital, and Imperial College, in London, found that the patches offered a kinder alternative than many of the radical hormone therapies currently used.

The prostate is a gland found near the bladder on men, and tumours there are some of the most common in men.

The beauty of patch therapy is that is not only leads to disease regression, it does so with far fewer side-effects
Mr Paul Abel, Hammersmith Hospital
The idea behind hormone therapy of prostate tumours is to cut the supply of the male hormone testosterone, which can encourage cancer cell growth.

Currently, many men are given drugs which reduce testosterone - some even have their testicles removed to achieve the same effect.

However, the side-effects of these therapies can be severe - many men suffer "menopausal" symptoms such as hot flushes, and osteoporosis, and other distressing effects such as impotence and breast growth.

Oestrogen alternative

Doctors know that giving the female hormone oestrogen can also shut off testosterone production, but trials using oestrogen tablets have been abandoned due to an increased risk of blood clotting.

The patches, however, have been far more successful.

The researchers found that 20 patients with advanced prostate cancer enjoyed a far better quality of life using patches.

In addition, their disease "regressed", and bone density improved.

There were no reports of dangerous blood clotting.


Mr Paul Abel, one of the consultants leading the trial, said: "We're delighted with the results of this preliminary study.

"It holds real promise for prostate cancer sufferers giving an efficient, easy and cost-effective alternative to the currently available therapies, which can be painful, time-consuming and produce unwelcome side-effects.

"The beauty of patch therapy is that is not only leads to disease regression, it does so with far fewer side-effects.

"It is also flexible in that it can be removed at any time if necessary, for example should side-effects develop."

He said that an additional advantage was cost - the patches are far cheaper than current therapies, and would potentially save the NHS millions each year.

BBC London's Deborah Partridge
"Initial results of the tests are very promising"

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