HRT patches 'could be used to help treat prostate cancer in men'

Oestrogen offers effective alternative to current, aggressive drugs with fewer harmful side effects

Oestrogen patches worn by women to relieve the symptoms of menopause could also help men fight prostate cancer, scientists have found.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may offer an effective alternative treatment for the cancer, without the side-effects of other therapies.

Oestrogen patches, which work by replacing the hormone that women cease to produce in middle age, are currently the most commonly prescribed treatment for the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and loss of libido.

The new research, funded by the charity Cancer Research UK, shows that the patches are also effective in lowering levels of the male hormone testosterone – which fuels the spread of prostate cancer in the early stages of the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 40,000 diagnosed in Britain each year. It is the second biggest cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer.

Currently the most effective known treatments include LHRH agonists such as Zoladex, which are injected and interfere with testosterone production, and oestrogen taken in pill form. But both of these have aggressive side effects. Injected drugs are known to increase the risk of osteoporosis and diabetes, while the oestrogen pill has been linked to higher risks of blood clots and stroke.

By comparison, HRT is a relatively low-risk treatment, with breast tenderness and skin irritation the most common adverse side-effects during trials.

The results of the Phase II trial, which involved 250 men with locally advanced or spreading prostate cancer, suggest that HRT patches can lower testosterone as effectively as LHRH agonists.

Dr Ruth Langley, at the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit in London, who led the study published today in The Lancet Oncology, said: "These promising new findings suggest that we might be able to use oestrogen patches or an oestrogen gel to treat prostate cancer without significantly increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

"We think the reason oral oestrogen caused these side effects is because the oestrogen reached the liver in high concentrations straight from the stomach, whereas if the oestrogen can be absorbed through the skin the effect on the liver is avoided."

The report's co-author, Professor Paul Abel, at Imperial College London, said: "The next step is to test if the oestrogen patches are as effective at stopping the growth of prostate cancer as the current hormone treatments.

"We're now testing this in over 600 patients and some early results could be available later this year."

Kate Law, the director of clinical and population research at Cancer Research UK, added: "More men than ever are surviving prostate cancer thanks to advances in research, but we still urgently need to find more effective treatments and reduce side-effects.

"This trial is an important step towards better and kinder treatments that could bring big benefits to men with prostate cancer in the future."

Critics of HRT in women have raised concerns over the long-term use of the drug. Two studies, published in 2002 and 2003, linking HRT to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease in women, raised concerns in the medical community as well as the general public, with doctors advised to prescribe the lowest possible dosage.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory