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When cancer drugs make things worse

Thursday September 18th, 2014

Drugs given for prostate cancer may aggravate the disease if they are taken for too long, researchers have warned.

The findings apply to glucocorticoids, which researchers say may allow the evolution of the most dangerous cancer cells.

The research, reported last night, used new techniques to monitor the development of cancer.

Doctors said patients should be monitored using the techniques, which involve blood tests for circulating cancer DNA.

The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, involved the Institute of Cancer Research, London, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Trento in Italy.

It was backed by Prostate Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK.

Some 16 patients took part in the study.

Researcher Dr Gerhardt Attard said: "Our study showed that a steroid treatment given to patients with advanced prostate cancer and often initially very effective started to activate harmful mutations and coincided with the cancer starting to grow again."

He added: "In the future, we hope to routinely monitor genetic mutations in patients with advanced disease using just a blood test – enabling us to stop treatments when they become disease drivers and select the next best treatment option.

"We need to confirm these findings in larger numbers of patients but using these types of blood tests could allow true personalisation of treatment for prostate cancer patients, based on the cancer mutations we detect."

Dr Matthew Hobbs, of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "We now need to see this tested in a bigger group of men to establish its true potential.

"Anyone currently taking medication for advanced prostate cancer should not stop doing so as a result of these findings, but should speak to their clinician or a Prostate Cancer UK Specialist Nurse if they have any concerns."

Tumor clone dynamics in lethal prostate cancer. Science Translational Medicine 17 September 2014 [abstract]

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Genetics | Menís Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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