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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week