Lets hope we live long enough to benefit from these breakthroughs
Every day one reads about amazing breakthroughs in medical science. Mostly they are announced before they can be used in a practical sense so they can obtain funding. But some are not far off being accessible and three have been recently announced that will benefit millions, I’m sure many among MM readers:
PROSTATE THERAPY WITHOUT SURGERY
TENS of thousands of men could benefit from a breakthrough prostate treatment just announced.
The technique uses tiny plastic beads to block the blood supply and shrink the enlarged gland – all without an operation. A successful trial in Portugal is being followed up in Britain, with results due back later this year. If successful it could be rolled out for routine use on the NHS.
Half of all men over 50 suffer from an enlarged prostate and every year 45,000 have risky surgery to remove part of it.
As well as being painful and invasive, the operation can cause loss of sexual function and even incontinence. Last night, researchers said they expected the new technique – prostate artery embolisation – to largely replace surgery as the standard treatment.
An enlarged prostate presses on the bladder, while also blocking the urethra. This means sufferers need to make repeated night-time trips to the toilet, often to find they cannot urinate at all.
This can lead to a build-up of toxins that cause severe kidney problems. The bead technique has been tested on 1,000 middle aged men in Portugal.
João Martins Pisco, who led the study at St Louis Hospital in Lisbon, said: ‘Within five years I think this will replace surgery as the standard treatment.
‘ Prostate artery embolisation gives men a treatment option that is less invasive than other therapies and allows them to return to their normal lives sooner. Time and time again, I see patients who are relieved to find out about prostate artery embolisation because they are not able to tolerate medications due to their side effects.
‘These men also don’t want traditional surgery because it involves greater risks, has possible sexual side effects, and has a recovery time that is relatively long compared to prostate artery embolisation, which is generally performed under local anaesthesia and on an outpatient basis.’
The Portuguese team, which will present its findings at the Society of Interventional Radiology in Washington DC today, concluded the procedure is as effective as surgery and the benefits may last as long. Only two patients in the seven-year trial had clinical side effects.
Performed under local anaesthetic, the procedure involves injecting hundreds of 0.2mm plastic beads into an artery in the groin. the beads are directed with a thin tube into the blood vessels that flow to the prostate, blocking blood supply to the enlarged gland so that it shrinks.
Dr Pisco added: ‘I have had nine babies born to men who were able to continue their sex lives after having the treatment.’ His team saw a 89 per cent success rate six months after surgery, 82 per cent success up to three years, and 78 per cent beyond three years.
Two hundred patients in Southampton General, Guy’s Hospital in London and 16 other clinics are involved in the British trial, which is part-funded by the clinical watchdog NICE.
Dr Nigel Hacking, who is leading the study, said: ‘It is very encouraging. I am always cautious about new techniques but this procedure seems to be showing promise and it seems to be safe.’
Louise de Winter of the Urology Foundation said: ‘this research is very exciting.
‘As the population ages these problems are going to get even more acute.’
BLOOD PRESSURE BREAKTHROUGH
Experts close in on wonder drug to treat millions
A SINGLE pill to fight high blood pressure could soon be developed, scientists said last night.
British researchers have made a major breakthrough by discovering the source of a gas that regulates blood pressure.
They found nitric oxide is formed in nerve endings rather than in the walls of blood vessels as previously thought. The higher the gas levels, the lower the blood pressure.
Experts found a link between the brain and hypertension, which could lead to a new generation of drugs to stop potentially fatal high blood pressure.
For millions of people it would mean the end to a daily cocktail of tablets taken in combination to regulate blood flow.
Phil Chowienczyk, professor of cardiovascular clinical pharmacology at King’s College, London, said: “Ultimately this could lead to a single new drug to lower blood pressure.” The world-first research revealed A SIMPLE blood test that shows cancer and where in the body it is developing has been created by scientists.
The revolutionary test offers the hope of screening patients during routine check-ups, ending the traumatic wait for the results of current biopsies.
“Liquid biopsies” are something of a Holy Grail for cancer scientists as they rely on an ordinary draw of blood instead of the traditional invasive technique. It would allow surgeons to remove tumours so early they would not have had a chance to spread. The new method relies on methylation of DNA, a process that controls how genes are expressed. Each tissue in the body can be identified by its unique signature of methylation genes. So the test can pick up the tell-tale signs of tumours, as well as where in the body it’s growing.
Professor Kun Zhang, a bio-engineer at California University (UC) in San Diego, said: “Knowing the tumour’s location is critical for effective early detection.”
The study published in Nature Genetics discovered a clue in blood that does exactly this.
When a tumour starts to take over a part of the body it competes with normal cells for nutrients and space, killing them off in the process. As normal cells die they release their DNA into the bloodstream, and it is this that could identify the affected tissue.
Prof Zhang said: “This a proof of concept. To move this research to the clinical stage we need to work with oncologists to optimise and refine this method.”
Anti-cancer drug discovered in rainforest successfully tested on humans
A POTENTIAL cancer cure discovered in Far North Queensland that has been successfully tested on human patients is hoped to become commercially available in four years.
Brisbane-based researchers QBiotics have released the results of their first clinical trials of the drug EBC-46.
The drug has been derived from the seeds of the rainforest blushwood tree, which grows on the Tablelands.
Eight cancer patients across Australia were tested with the drug, which successfully treated four different types of tumours that included melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and breast adenocarcinoma.
QBiotics CEO Dr Victoria Gordon said none of the patients, who were treated at hospitals in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, showed any negative side effects from the drug.
“Our last patient – which was our melanoma patient – we had total tumour destruction in both of the tumours that we treated,” she said.
“We’re very happy about that.
“Within seven days, the tumours were gone.
“The exciting thing is the drugs are responding in exactly the same way in tumours in cats and dogs and horses.
“It’s proving our theory that it’s not species-specific, and it’s not tumour-specific either, because it’s actually working in a range of tumours.”
She expected the drug, once it had been trialled on at least 11 more human patients, would become commercially available within the next four years.
“I’m particularly excited by the melanoma results,” she said.
“My father died from melanoma and it’s nasty.
“Both my parents died from cancer and I lost my sister three years ago to liver cancer, so I’m really delighted what we’ve achieved. It’s just onwards and upwards.”
The company is also progressing with its plans in international veterinary cancer markets, following approval from the US Centre for Veterinary Medicine for further studies on the treatment of canine mast cell tumours with EBC-46.
This approved study will involve 10 investigative sites and 120 cases for the treatment of canine tumours, and would be the final clinical step to use of the product in the US for canine mast cell tumours.
Dr Gordon said once the study was completed, the company would seek regulatory approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to make the drug commercially available to the domestic vet market.