New therapy could stem death rate from prostate cancer

Olivier and I in the Yarra Valley

Olivier and I in the Yarra Valley

The Advertiser today ran a good news story that new therapy could beat the most resistant prostate cancer.  The new treatment, which acts on the immune system, achieved almost complete remission in mice when combined with chemotherapy.  It was published on May 1, the same month my husband Olivier died of prostate cancer three years ago. He was diagnosed in January 2011 and the article reports that 19,993 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in Australia that year.   This made up 30 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in Australian men – almost one in three.

In 2012, 3079 men died of prostate cancer. My husband was numbered among those sad statistics because he died on May 11 that year aged 73.  By the  age of 85, 1 in 5 men will be diagnosed with this killer cancer if successful treatment is not discovered. Each day of our life together was precious to me and I sincerely hope that this new treatment saves many women from such devastating, unnecessary loss of their life partner.

Us scientists explained that aggressive tumours are partly caused by immune system “B cells” that impairs the body’s natural defences in prostate and other cancers.

The article which was first published in the Daily Mail reported that the researchers found a way of blocking the development of these B-cells, or removing them before using low doses of the drug oxaliplatin which activates cancer-killing  immune cells in small tumours. Researchers acknowledged it did not work as well for large tumours, hence the importance of early diagnosis.

Olivier’s aggressive prostate cancer did not respond to chemotherapy. Researchers  have noted that this may well be because B-cells in the immune system undermine the effectiveness of both traditional and promising new drugs.

Sadly, Olivier’s cancer had spread into his spine before his primary cancer in the prostate was diagnosed and while early treatment for prostate cancer is often highly successful, there are “few options for men with aggressive drug-resistant prostate cancer that has started to spread”.