Thousands of men with prostate cancer in the UK could be cured with an hour-long operation, doctors hope.
The ‘game-changing’ treatment uses electrical currents to destroy difficult to reach tumours.
Surgery to remove the prostrate or radiotherapy are the options normally offered to men with the disease.
The therapy, called Nanoknife, has been dubbed as ‘amazing, simple and quick’ after being found to have fewer side effects.
The ‘game-changing’ treatment uses electrical currents to destroy difficult to reach tumours. Surgery to remove the prostrate or radiotherapy are the options normally offered to men with the disease
How is the treatment carried out?
NanoKnife involves no knives at all, according to a breakdown of the op by the King Edward VII’s Hospital.
‘The treatment is delivered via a needle puncture through the skin,’ it says.
‘Your surgeon will use ultrasound to locate your prostate tumour and then insert up to four needles around it.
‘Then the NanoKnife machine passes an electric current through the needles, damaging the cell membranes of the cancerous cells which then shrink and die.’
Nanoknife is carried out under general anaesthetic and takes around 45 minutes. The procedure is performed as a day case.
Surgeons at University College London Hospital (UCLH) have already used it to treat prostate cancer patients.
And medics have called for bigger trials of the procedure, with it already used for liver and pancreatic cancers.
The process – called irreversible electroporation – involves sending electrical pulses into tumours which cut open the membrane of the cells.
This targeted style of treatment increases the level of precision while reducing risks to surrounding organs.
It can take less than an hour and patients don’t need to stay in overnight, freeing up valuable time and space in hospitals.
Prostate cancer will affect one in six men across their lifetime as more than 50,000 cases are found every year.
Diagnoses of the disease fell by almost a quarter during the pandemic.
Professor Mark Emberton, one of the country’s leading prostate surgeons, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The beauty of it is that it’s such a simple technique to train surgeons in. That makes it a game-changer.’
‘It’s an amazing treatment, so quick, and it means we can reach tumours that are beyond where the knife can reach.’
Alistair Grey, the consultant urologist who led the first operations, told The Telegraph: ‘What is very exciting about this treatment is its precision in targeting and attacking the cancerous cells without damaging healthy tissue, and maintaining the prostate’s important functions.’
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does it kill?
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are killed by the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women dying of breast cancer.
It means prostate cancer is behind only lung and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain.
In the US, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.
Despite this, it receives less than half the research funding of breast cancer and treatments for the disease are trailing at least a decade behind.
How quickly does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS.
If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.
But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools only just beginning to emerge.
There is no national prostate screening programme as for years the tests have been too inaccurate.
Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof.
Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with any concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org