Laser ther­apy with deep-sea bac­te­ria kills prostate can­cer

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A non-sur­gi­cal treat­ment for low-risk prostate can­cer in which doc­tors in­ject a light-sen­si­tive drug de­rived from deep-sea bac­te­ria into a pa­tient’s blood­stream was shown in a trial to kill can­cer cells with­out de­stroy­ing healthy tis­sue. Re­sults of a trial in 413 pa­tients showed that the drug, which is ac­ti­vated with a laser to de­stroy tu­mor tis­sue in the prostate, was so ef­fec­tive that half the pa­tients went into re­mis­sion, com­pared with 13.5 per­cent in a con­trol group.

“Th­ese re­sults are ex­cel­lent news for men with early lo­cal­ized prostate can­cer, of­fer­ing a treat­ment that can kill can­cer with­out re­mov­ing or de­stroy­ing the prostate,” said Mark Em­ber­ton, a Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don con­sul­tant urol­o­gist who led the trial. “This is truly a huge leap for­ward.”

The treat­ment, called vas­cu­lar-tar­geted pho­to­dy­namic ther­apy or VTP, was de­vel­oped by sci­en­tists at the Weiz­mann In­sti­tute of Sci­ence in Is­rael in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pri­vate­ly­owned STEBA Biotech.

The light-sen­si­tive drug used, called WST11, is de­rived from bac­te­ria found at the bot­tom of the ocean. To sur­vive with very lit­tle sun­light, they have evolved to con­vert light into en­ergy with in­cred­i­ble ef­fi­ciency, Em­ber­ton’s team said in a study pub­lished in the jour­nal Lancet On­col­ogy. The Weiz­mann sci­en­tists ex­ploited this fea­ture to de­velop WST11, a com­pound that re­leases free rad­i­cals to kill sur­round­ing cells when ac­ti­vated by laser light.

Men with low-risk prostate can­cer are cur­rently put un­der ac­tive sur­veil­lance, where the dis­ease is mon­i­tored and only treated when it be­comes more se­vere. Rad­i­cal ther­apy, which in­volves sur­gi­cally re­mov­ing or ir­ra­di­at­ing the whole prostate, has sig­nif­i­cant longterm side ef­fects so is only used to treat high-risk can­cers.

While rad­i­cal ther­apy causes life­long erec­tile prob­lems and in­con­ti­nence, VTP only caused short-term uri­nary and erec­tile prob­lems which re­solved within three months, the re­searchers said. No sig­nif­i­cant side-ef­fects re­mained af­ter two years.

In the trial, only 6 per­cent of pa­tients treated with VTP needed rad­i­cal ther­apy com­pared with 30 per­cent of pa­tients in the con­trol arm who were un­der ac­tive sur­veil­lance. The trial in­volved 47 treat­ment sites in 10 Euro­pean coun­tries, most of which were per­form­ing VTP for the first time. “The fact that the treat­ment was per­formed so suc­cess­fully by non-spe­cial­ist cen­ters in var­i­ous health sys­tems is re­ally re­mark­able,” Em­ber­ton said. The VTP treat­ment is now be­ing re­viewed by the Euro­pean Medicines Agency (EMA) for pos­si­ble li­cense, but it likely to be sev­eral years be­fore it can be of­fered to pa­tients more widely. — Reuters

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