'Sunshine' pill could treat prostate cancer says maker

In collaboration with the Press Association

A pill which replicates some of the beneficial effects of sunshine on the human body may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer, its makers have said.

Previous research has found that the vitamin D humans derive from exposure to sunlight can improve the outlook for some people with prostate cancer.

Taking vitamin D dietary supplements does not replicate the effect however, and extended exposure to sunlight is both impractical and carries skin cancer risks.

Researchers working with the drug firm Novacea have said that they are planning clinical trials of a new pill, known as Asentar, which can replicate the beneficial effect of sunlight.

Small, earlier trials extended survival times 50 per cent, or by an additional nine months, with one Asentar pill taken alongside other treatments three weeks out of every four.

The pill provides a dose of vitamin D between 50 and 100 times greater than usual doses of the vitamin without the usual risk of an overdose.

"We would welcome any improvements in the treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer and this drug has shown potential in early trials," said Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK.

"But the results of the much larger study are needed to fully establish if this treatment is both effective and safe."

The research is ongoing at the University of Birmingham and initial results have been published in the journal Chemistry & Industry.