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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Prostate cancer drug trial hope
Image of prostate cancer
Scans can help diagnose prostate cancer
Doctors are testing new prostate cancer drugs that could help beat advanced tumours resistant to current therapies.

Advanced prostate cancer is generally treated with hormone therapy, but this works only for a short time before the patient eventually dies.

When hormone therapy fails, there are few options other than palliative care.

The Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust teams are looking at 25 anticancer drugs as potential life-savers.

We want to bring the discoveries we make with new drugs to the patients as quickly as possible
Lead investigator Dr Johann de Bono

Professor Colin Cooper, head of the Everyman Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research, said prostate cancer had been a neglected area while other cancers, such as breast cancer, had seen massive improvements in treatment and survival rates.

"We know very little about it, what causes it, about its development and we are not very good at treating it.

"A third of people who develop prostate cancer will die from it and it is the commonest cancer in men," he said.

In the UK, about 30,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year.

Targeted therapy

It has been difficult for researchers to determine the genetic causes of hormone-resistant prostate cancer because it has been hard to acquire cancer cells from patients because of the nature of the spread of this cancer.

In the coming trials, Dr Johann de Bono and colleague will remove cancer cells from patients with prostate cancer and grown them in the laboratory to identify molecular pathways and new targets for drug treatment.

Dr Johann de Bono, team Leader and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: "These initiatives will ensure that, in the future, drug targets can be discovered and new anticancer drugs developed specifically for prostate cancer.

"We want to bring the discoveries we make with new drugs to the patients as quickly as possible.

"This is a key area of cancer research that has been neglected for too long and we now have a major shift in focus and we are playing a big part in that."

The news comes ahead of the Institute for Cancer Research's Everyman Male Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through June, to encourage men to take more of an interest in their health.

Dr Chris Hiley, of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "Accelerated funding is needed to increase the pace of research by the Everyman centre and all similar research conducted in the UK. We must get results into practice as soon as possible."


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