A radical therapy is showing promising results in the fight against prostate cancer. At a medical symposium in Europe this week, researchers reported that "shocking" prostate tumors by rapidly elevating and then dropping men's testosterone levels interfered with the cancer's growth.
In fact, one man who participated in the medical trials has no trace of the disease remaining.
The reported results are surprising for a couple of reasons: First, the very concept of flooding the system with testosterone is rather counterintuitive. Typical prostate cancer therapies deprive the body of testosterone, as it's long been thought that the hormone acts as a fuel for prostate tumors.
But even more significantly, the hard numbers coming out of the medical trial are very encouraging. According to a report from the European Cancer Organisation, the majority of the men who participated in the study experienced lower levels of prostate-specific antigen, otherwise known as PSA, after just three cycles of the therapy. PSA levels are widely used as a benchmark for assessing efficacy.
In some men, the size of the disease decreased, mostly in their lymph nodes and with many of them, the disease has not progressed within 12 months. In the case of the patient who had been cured, his PSA levels dropped to zero after three months and have remained so for 22 cycles of treatment.
Technically referred to as bipolar androgen therapy (BAT), the treatment is aimed at patients who have metastatic prostate cancer that's otherwise resistant to treatment by chemical or surgical castration. It's based on the idea, supported by previous studies, that high doses of testosterone can interfere with cancer cell division in some cases, and actually cause some cancer cells to make breaks in their own DNA.
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