Breakthrough non-surgical treatment or low-risk prostate cancer uses light therapy

Professor Mark Emberton has pioneered a new non-surgical treatment for low risk prostate cancer that uses light therapy to kill cancer cells. The breakthrough treatment is being used in a clinical trial that includes 413 patients right now. Emberton is the Dean of UCL Medical Sciences and a consultant urologist at UCLH.

The official name for the new treatment is vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy (VTP) an it involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into the bloodstream of the patients in the trial. That light sensitive drug is then activated with a laser to destroy tumor tissue in the prostate. The clinical trial has found that 49% of the participants in the trial treated with VTP went into complete remission compared with 13.5% of patients going into remission in the control group.

"These results are excellent news for men with early localised prostate cancer, offering a treatment that can kill cancer without removing or destroying the prostate," says Professor Emberton.

"This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment, which has previously lagged decades behind other solid cancers such as breast cancer. In 1975 almost everyone with breast cancer was given a radical mastectomy, but since then treatments have steady improved and we now rarely need to remove the whole breast. In prostate cancer we are still commonly removing or irradiating the whole prostate, so the success of this new tissue-preserving treatment is welcome news indeed."

This non-surgical treatment is a big deal because there are significant side effects of radical treatments that involve removing the prostate. Radical therapy often involves lifelong erectile dysfunction and 1-in-5 patients also have incontinence after radical surgery.

The team has found that only 6% of patients treated with VTP needed radical therapy compared with 30% of the patients in the control group. This treatment is years away from being offered to a wider population.