The prostate cancer breakthrough as new laser treatment destroys tumours with no side effects

Prostate cancer

Further tests are needed but research could improve treatment options

Doctors in the US hailed the development as “exciting” because it could offer hope to millions of men diagnosed with the disease . Prostate cancer patients have seen their tumours destroyed with a revolutionary new laser treatment which has no side effects.

Currently, prostate cancer is normally treated with surgery or radiotherapy which can result in erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

But the new technique – which kills tumours using heat delivered via a laser beam – has no side effects.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. More than 40,000 are diagnosed every year in the UK.

For many men with the disease, treatment is not immediately necessary.

But others may have to undergo surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapy or hormone therapy.

All these treatment options carry the risk of serious side effects, including erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

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Now doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered a new way to treat the disease without the risk of side effects – laser heat.

They tested the new technique – called MRI-guided focal laser ablation – in 19 prostate cancer patients. All saw their cancerous tissue killed and, crucially, none suffered side effects.

Prostate Cancer
Current treatments are “like using a sledgehammer to crush a flea”

The study, reported in the Journal of Urology, found the treatment was “both feasible and safe in men with intermediate risk prostate cancer”.

This was only a Phase 1 clinical trial, so further, larger studies will be required before the treatment could be widely recommended.

But study senior author Dr Leonard Marks, a professor of urology at UCLA, said: “This focal therapy provides a middle ground for men to choose between radical prostatectomy and active surveillance, between doing nothing and losing the prostate.

“This is a new and exciting concept for prostate cancer treatment.”

The technique uses an MRI scanner to guide the insertion of a laser beam into cancerous tumours. When heated, the laser destroys the cancerous tissue.

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The study found no serious adverse effects or changes in urinary or sexual function in the men six months after the procedure.

Longer-term follow up of the patients will be needed to see how their fare over several years, but the early results appear extremely promising.

Doctors at UCLA have previously enjoyed success using MRI scanners to pinpoint where the tumour is in order to undertake an accurate biopsy.

“Our feeling was that if you can see prostate cancer using the fusion MRI and can put a needle in the spot to biopsy it, why not stick a laser fibre in the tumour the same way to kill it,” Dr Marks said.

“This is akin to a lumpectomy for breast cancer . Instead of removing the whole organ, target just the cancer inside it. What we are doing with prostate cancer now is like using a sledgehammer to kill a flea.”

If MRI-guided focal laser ablation proves effective in further studies, it could improve treatment options and outcomes for men with prostate cancer.