An emerging treatment could bring new hope for the thousands of Kiwi men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
US scientists say 'suicide' gene therapy could increase survival rates by up to 20 percent, although oncologists here are treating it with caution.
The new technique modifies prostate cancer cells to alert the patient’s immune system to attack and kill them, effectively causing them to self-destruct and earning it the name ‘suicide’ gene therapy.
Patients received the gene therapy treatment alongside radiotherapy and after five years, researchers found a five-to-20 percent improvement in survival rates.
Auckland Oncologist Dr Peter Fong is encouraged by the research but warns more evidence is needed.
“I would like to be cautiously optimistic about a lot of new developments because that's where improvements happen, but if we jump at every single one of them then I think we will have a lot of disappointments.”
Graeme Woodside from the Prostate Cancer Foundation says early detection is still the best approach.
“Men over 50 should get regular checks. If they get a regular check for prostate cancer, chances are it will be picked up early and can be treated very effectively. Most men who are treated in the early stages go on and live normal, happy lives following.”
Auckland builder Allan McLachlan thanks early detection for saving him. Two and a half years ago a pre-holiday blood test revealed signs he had prostate cancer which was confirmed by a biopsy.
“The day I was meant to fly out to Europe for two months, I was lying on a table getting operated on.”
He's one of 3000 Kiwi men to be diagnosed each year. And he says he's lucky, he caught it early or he may not have got to see his grandchildren grow up.
“I've got two littlies now that weren't alive when I got diagnosed, so maybe I might not have seen them.”
After discovering he had prostate cancer McLachlan made his brothers get checked, and it turned out one of them had it too. And he’s encouraging others to do the same.
“What I got into my head early on was just, leave your dignity at the door, get the job done and get on with life.
He’s back to work, playing golf and running around with the grandkids. And he finally gets to go on that holiday to Europe, next year.