Lasers and sea bacteria: The latest wonder treatment for prostate cancer

20 Dec 2016

Cancer cell division of two prostate cancer cells. Image:

A new treatment for prostate cancer that uses lasers and a drug made from sea bacteria is being heralded as having incredible results during the cancer’s earliest stage.

With thousands of reported cases in Ireland each year, prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer found in older men.

Following the onset of prostate cancer, men typically experience erectile issues and an inability to control their bladders.

Now, according to the BBC, the details of a new treatment in The Lancet Oncology journal for the cancer in its early stages is being described as “truly transformative”.

Led by Prof Mark Emberton, the University College London team developed a treatment that uses fibre optic lasers and a drug that contains sea bacteria from the murkiest depths of the ocean floor.

When maintained in darkness, the bacteria is dormant; but when exposed to light, the bacteria emits a powerful toxin.

Nearly half in complete remission

With this knowledge, ten fibre optic lasers are inserted into the perineum between the anus and testes and shone in the prostate gland.

This light then activates the sea bacteria, releasing the toxin that kills the cancer, but maintaining the healthy prostate tissue.

So far, testing of the treatment has been done on 413 men across 47 European hospitals and the results show that almost half (49pc) went into complete remission.

During follow-up appointments, it was found that only 6pc of patients needed to have their prostates removed, marking a considerable decrease on the previous average of 30pc.

Also, patients found that the treatment reduced the negative effects found during the onset of prostate cancer, lasting no longer than three months.

‘Truly transformative’

Prof Emberton compared this treatment to the breakthrough of being able to remove the breast cancer lump, rather than the entire breast.

“Traditionally, the decision to have treatment has always been a balance of benefits and harms. The harms have always been the side effects – urinary incontinence and sexual difficulties in the majority of men,” Emberton said.

“To have a new treatment now, that we can administer to men who are eligible that is virtually free of those side effects, is truly transformative.”

He did warn however that this will not be a universal treatment and that patients with prostate cancer will need to be analysed first to prevent possible over-treatment.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic