James Gallagher ,
A cheaper and safer treatment for prostate cancer than current therapies may be skin patches, which deliver estrogen into the blood, a study says.
Patches giving estrogen through the skin could be an alternative to the dangerous hormone therapies used to treat prostate cancer. The main hormone treatment involves injections with side effects.
Estrogen patches were usually employed in the treatment of menopause symptoms in women. When used with men who had prostate cancer (254 men tested with both treatments) it reduced levels of testosterone to a similar extent as the current hormone treatment used, the LHRHa injections. The researchers at the Imperial College London found that patches were safe and should avoid menopause-like side effects.
Estrogen treatment for prostate cancer is an old treatment. The two hormones - oestrogen and testosterone - are very similar chemically. Pushing the body to produce more estrogen can reduce the amount of testosterone produced - thus slowing the growth of prostate cancer.
Still, the oral intake of estrogen pills damaged the liver causing blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Furthermore, the LHRHa injected and reduced the production of both estrogen and testosterone but it still has an effect on bone health and may cause diabetes.
There will be more testing and following patients to see how effective the treatment is compared to current hormone treatments. The patch is now being tested by over 600 patients, researchers say.
Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "It is unclear as yet if hormone patches could be an effective alternative to hormone injections, but we await with anticipation the results of the further trials planned which could in time offer men hope for the future."
A representative from the charity Cancer Research UK which part funded the study, stated in a BBC interview that: "More men than ever are surviving prostate cancer thanks to advances in research, but we still urgently need to find more effective treatments and reduce side effects. This trial is an important step towards better and kinder treatments that could bring big benefits to men with prostate cancer in the future."