European doctors have recently announced a new treatment for prostate cancer based on laser technology and a drug made from marine bacteria. Current techniques involving surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy can leave devastating implications for life such as impotence and varying degrees of urinary incontinence. Almost 90% of prostate cancer patients develop erectile dysfunction and one in five struggles to control urine. The new method is capable of eliminating tumors without causing significant side effects.
Developed by the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel, along with the company Steba Biotech, the new technique is considered revolutionary by medical experts. The intervention is done by inserting 10 optical fibers in the region of the perineum. The drug used is made from marine bacteria (living in the depths of the oceans) that activate their toxins when exposed to light. When the lasers are lightened up on the cancerous tissue, they activate the drug injected into the bloodstream, which "kills" the tumors.
Four hundred and thirteen patients underwent clinical trials in 47 European hospitals with a very high success rate: 49% of the patients were completely cured, and only 6% of them required prostate extirpation; this rate is five times lower than that observed when patients are treated with the current methods. Another advantage of the new treatment is that it’s not causing any side effects, whereas classical chemotherapy and radiation therapy have unpleasant consequences such as hair loss, extreme weakness, nausea and low sex drive. The lasers' impact on sexual potency and urination lasted only three months on average. None of the patients had any significant side effects after two years. The results were published in the medical journal The Lancet.
Approximately 80% of men aged 80 develop prostate cancer. Worldwide, this is the second most common cancer in men, being more prominent in developed countries where life span is longer. However, many men refrain from seeking medical treatment at the initial stages of the disease out of unfamiliarity, shame and/or fear of side effects, changing their attitude only when the cancer gets more aggressive. News of this revolutionary treatment could help promote greater awareness of the disease and encourage a more proactive approach.
Epidemiology varies significantly worldwide: according to the Spanish Association Against Cancer, 65.5% of patients suffering from prostate cancer in Spain survive more than five years. This is much higher than in 1990, when only 48.8% of the patients survived. Yet these numbers contrast with the 99% 5-year survival rate in the US, where prostate cancer actually ranks first among males. In the UK, 11,000 men succumb to the disease every year. The new laser treatment promises to drastically improve these outcomes. It is expected to become widespread around the world in the next few years.