Test hope for prostate cancer sufferers
A test that detects prostate cancer cells in the bloodstream could improve the treatment of men with advanced disease and speed up development of new therapies, experts have said.
Measuring numbers of circulating tumour cells can identify which men are benefiting least from a drug treatment in as little as 12 weeks, a study found.
The test is expected to help patients switch to alternative, more effective treatments earlier than is currently possible. It could also hasten the development of new cancer treatments.
Professor Johann de Bono, from the Institute of Cancer Research, said: "The past decade has seen unprecedented success in the development of new drugs for advanced, metastatic (spreading) prostate cancer.
"One of the major challenges we face now is in optimising the use of these new treatments by making sure that the right men receive them, and only for as long as they are benefiting," he added.
"We hope our results will not only lead to better use of the current range of treatments, but also speed up the discovery of new drugs by providing an important new tool to the researchers trialling them."
As cancer tumours grow and progress, they shed cells into the bloodstream which are carried around the body to seed new secondary tumours.
The spread of cancer to vital organs such as the liver and brain is the chief reason people die from the disease.