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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas