Research into treatment for prostate cancer

Before new treatments can be introduced, they need to be tested thoroughly. This is so we can be sure that they work and that they are safe.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for prostate cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you might be able to take part in.

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of the type of research being carried out on prostate cancer.

Click on the ‘recruiting’, ‘closed’ and ‘results’ tabs to see all the trials.

Research into surgery

Doctors can remove localised prostate cancer with surgery. You usually have a radical prostatectomy. There are different ways of having a radical prostatectomy:

  • keyhole or laparoscopic surgery 
  • robotic surgery which is a type of keyhole surgery
  • open surgery

Recent research compared these different types of surgery. Researchers want to find out:

  • how long do men have to stay in hospital with each type of surgery
  • the side effects
  • if the cancer comes back after surgery

Researchers are also looking at how a drug usually used for treating diabetes can affect the prostate tissue. The drug is called metformin. They want to find out whether metformin can reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer.  

Research into radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is one of the main treatments for prostate cancer. Researchers are looking at ways to improve it and reduce the side effects.

This includes research into:

  • what dose they need to give and how much of the area around the prostate that you need treatment for
  • whether radiotherapy after surgery lowers the risk of the cancer coming back
  • how to reduce side effects, for example using a ProSpare, which is a small device that goes into your back passage
  • different ways of giving radiotherapy to the prostate
  • the best treatment to have after radiotherapy

Lutetium-177-PSMA for metastatic prostate cancer

Lutetium-177-PSMA is a type of internal radiotherapy. You might have it for prostate cancer that has spread and is getting worse despite having hormones or surgery to remove the testicles. This is castration resistant metastatic prostate cancer. 

PSMA stands for Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen. PSMA is found on the surface of prostate cells. 

In the laboratory, doctors attach a radioactive substance to the PSMA. This radioactive treatment circulates through your body in the bloodstream and attaches to the PSMA on the prostate cells. It then enters the cell and kills it.

A clinical trial found that Lutetium-177-PSMA can help some men with metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer. 

Research into hormone therapy

Prostate cancer depends on the male hormone testosterone for its growth. Hormone therapies block or lower the levels of testosterone. You might have it to lower the risk of your cancer coming back after treatment or to shrink or slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Researchers are looking into:

  • new hormone therapies
  • the best time to have hormone therapy
  • having hormone therapy in combination with other treatments

Research into chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can help control cancer that has spread. This is metastatic or advanced prostate cancer.

Researchers are looking at how well chemotherapy in combination with other treatments work. Chemotherapy drugs that doctors are looking into include:

  • carboplatin
  • docetaxel in combination with other treatments

Research into targeted cancer drugs

Targeted cancer drugs are drugs which change the way that the cells work. They can boost the body’s immune system Open a glossary item to fight off or kill cancer cells. Or they can block signals that tell cancer cells to grow.

Targeted drugs that researchers are looking into include:

  • pembrolizumab
  • capivasertib
  • AZD5305
  • rucaparib
  • nivolumab
  • ipilimumab

Research into high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)

HIFU uses high frequency sound waves to destroy cancer cells. The waves create heat that destroys prostate cancer.

Researchers are looking at only treating the areas of cancer in the prostate. They want to find out how well it works and how it affects men’s quality of life.

Research into the quality of life of men with prostate cancer

More and more men are surviving prostate cancer. So researchers are interested in the quality of life of men who finish their treatment. They want to see which men are more likely to have side effects from their treatment.

They are also looking into the mental wellbeing and quality of life of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Research into exercise

There is research going on looking at whether increasing the amount of exercise improves your quality of life and helps to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

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