Australian medical scientists are working to prevent deaths from prostate cancer as a world-first clinical trial reaches its second phase.
Researchers are testing the effectiveness of an experimental therapy, known as Lutetium-177-PSMA, combined with immunotherapy.
If found to be effective, it could establish a new global standard of care for patients.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths.
Of those newly diagnosed, about 15 per cent are at an advanced stage, in which the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Grandfather-of-two John Boland, 72, dipped into his superannuation to access one of the drugs being used in the trial.
The Brisbane resident, who was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2014, said using Lutetium halted his cancer, gave him a new lease on life and a much-needed break from treatment.
“If you’ve got prostate cancer, you can never be cured, but it can be managed,” he said.
“For me, the Lutetium knocked the disease down so far that (the following) hormone treatment was very effective.
“I’m basically on an 18-month holiday from needing further treatment.”
Speaking from a holiday on Kangaroo Island, Mr Boland told NCA NewsWire quality of life was very important to him, and spending $10,000 for each round of Lutetium was worth it.
He said the drug was traditionally used as a last resort to other treatments, but by using it earlier on, it made subsequent treatments more effective.
“My frustration is that the PBS uses longevity as the key measure of success … but quality of life also has to be a measure, rather than just how long you live,” he said.
“It shouldn’t come at a cost so high that men and families can’t afford it when it would work for some of them. That’s the tragedy.
“My hope is the trial will enhance the Lutetium so the next time I have it, it will be far more effective than it is now.”
The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) invested $1.6 million for the second phase of the trial to treat advanced forms of prostate cancer that have stopped responding to other treatments.
“We are on the verge of a complete transformation in prostate cancer treatment, giving men with the most aggressive and deadly forms of this disease a greater hope of survival,” PCFA CEO Anne Savage said.
“This trial will go beyond where any other trial has gone before, exploring the next frontier in precision nuclear medicine for prostate cancer, combining Lu-PSMA with immunotherapy, which we think will be a game-changer in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.”
It is hoped the new treatment combination could lead to shrinkage or stabilisation of previously progressing tumours and stop or reverse the growth of the cancer.
PCFA Head of Researcher Jeff Dunn said the Lu-PSMA treatment delivered targeted radiation directly to killer prostate cancer cells and was administered intravenously, rather than through external radiation beams.
“This particular trial will build on existing work to see if Lu-PSMA is even more effective when combined with immunotherapies, which activate the body’s immune system to fight cancer,” Professor Dunn said.
“LuPSMA arguably represents the most significant breakthrough the world has seen in the management of advanced prostate cancer in the 21st century.”
The PCFA is also conducting a separate study into whether exercise could increase the effectiveness of prostate cancer treatment.