The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, although it may be linked to production of the male hormone testosterone. There’s no known way to prevent it, although incidence has been shown to be reduced by taking drugs known as 5-alphareductase inhibitors.
Dr. Chris Odgen with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the da Vinci S surgical system © The Royal Marsden
One of the biggest breakthroughs is a drug called abiraterone, which has led to significant tumour shrinkage and dramatic falls in PSA levels in the majority of advanced prostate cancer cases.
Lead researcher, Dr. Johann de Bono says the drug works to block the generation of key hormones that drive the growth of prostate cancers. ‘Patients with very aggressive prostate cancer, which is exceptionally difficult to treat, were able to control their disease with few side-effects. It’s envisioned that this drug will be available for general use from 2011.’
Professor Peter Rigby, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, believes the discovery of abiraterone highlights what can be achieved through funding world-leading cancer research. ‘We hope, with the generous contribution of the community, we can continue to develop better treatments to combat many cancers.’
A state-of-the-art ‘surgical robot’ is now used at the Royal Marsden for prostatectomies, with great results: ‘The da Vinci S surgical system has revolutionized the way we’re able to treat patients,’ says consultant uro-oncologist, Mr. Chris Ogden.
He says this pioneering equipment, one of the most technologically-advanced surgical systems in the world, means less invasive surgery, less time spent in hospital and a shorter recovery period. ‘We’ve performed over 800 of these surgeries at the Royal Marsden and continue to perform the largest number of these surgeries both in the NHS and private sectors.’