I started this Blog after being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2010. I thought I was going to die! It was a way of keeping family and friends informed but then became a campaigning tool, helping to make improvements in hospitals nationally. 11 years on, after successful surgery, my PSA is still undetectable. I'm not continuing to Blog about prostate cancer, I'm hoping to leave it in the past, but this blog contains a great archive of information.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed in England each year.
When it is caught early enough, radiotherapy can be highly effective.
High-energy X-rays are targeted at the prostate, killing cancer cells and preventing them from spreading.
However, the radiation is not absorbed by the prostate, meaning that nearby healthy organs can be affected resulting in side effects including rectal bleeding, erectile dysfunction, bowel and bladder damage.
Alan Clarke, from Bristol, first had radiotherapy in 2011 but cancer returned.
He was selected to be the first NHS patient to receive the spacer because he was considered to be more at risk of suffering side effects from a second course of radiotherapy.
Two syringes mix together the gel so that once injected, it sets within seconds.
Prof Amit Bahl, consultant oncologist at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The space we have created means the rectum will not get the toxicity from the radiotherapy.
"In radiotherapy terms this small space will make a huge difference to the patient's quality of life in the long term."
Dr Sam Roberts, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said: "In studies, its use has been shown to relatively reduce life-changing side effects, such as rectal pain, bleeding and diarrhoea, by over 70%, meaning significant improvements in quality of life for those battling prostate cancer."
Promising research, but can it come through soon enough?
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered that blocking a specific protein, may be a promising strategy to prevent the spread of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).
Under the direction of BUSM's Gerald V. Denis PhD, researchers have long studied a family of three closely related proteins, called BET bromodomain proteins, composed of BRD2, BRD3 and BRD4, which regulate gene expression. BUSM researchers were the first (in the 1990s) to show how these proteins function in human cancer.
These researchers now have discovered that inhibition of the protein BRD4, but not BRD2 or BRD3, consistently regulated prostate cancer cell migration and invasion.
CRPC is a highly aggressive form of prostate cancer that often leads to the development of lethal metastases. Standard of care treatment for patients with CRPC typically includes a means to disrupt androgen receptor (AR) signalling, and while effective for an average of two-three years, treatment inevitably fails to impede progression due to acquired resistance mechanisms to the AR.
"Our findings are significant because current therapeutic options for CRPC are limited and focus primarily on suppressing prostate tumour cells that rely on AR signalling," explained first author Jordan Shafran, a PhD candidate in the department of molecular and translational medicine at BUSM.
CRPC is a complex, heterogeneous disease, with varying AR states and expression patterns across individual tumour cells. As the disease progresses, prostate tumour cells can become less reliant on AR signalling and use alternative signalling mechanisms to sustain growth and dissemination. "Therefore, it is imperative to identify 'druggable' targets that regulate prostate cancer cell migration and invasion in cells that are either reliant on, or independent of, androgen receptor signalling," he added.