Space & Innovation

Shocking Prostate Tumor with Testosterone 'Cures' Man of Cancer

For the majority of men who participated in a cancer study, rapidly raising and lowering testosterone levels halted the growth of prostate tumors.

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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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"So too much testosterone can cause cancer cells to die," said symposium presenter Sam Denmeade, professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University said in press materials. "It can also induce something we call senescence, which means the cancer cells become like old men who sit around and tell stories but don't make much trouble."

All of the patients in the study had cancer that was both spreading and resistant to traditional hormone therapy drugs. The men were given high dose injections of testosterone every 28 days. They were also given a drug that stops testosterone being produced naturally, in between the monthly doses.

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"Our goal is to shock the cancer cells by exposing them rapidly to very high followed by very low levels of testosterone in the blood," Denmeade said.

Ivy Ahmed, Director of Patient Education at the nonprofit ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer, said that the new findings are indeed significant.

"This new research on testosterone is promising and exciting for men with advanced prostate cancer," Ahmed said "Testosterone can fuel prostate cancer growth, which is why current therapies focus on depleting testosterone levels. Depending on the findings of further studies, this new testosterone therapy could be an option for men faced with limited treatment choices as their disease advances."

The findings from the ongoing study were presented at 2016 ECCO Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Munich, Germany. Researchers are currently planning a larger randomized trial in the United States.