An Israeli-developed photodynamic therapy that killed early stage prostate cancer tumours in 90 minutes in trials, and causes minimal side effects, is being further tested. Jim Drury reports.
A prostate cancer patient undergoing a new photodynamic therapy that's exciting specialists. Developed in Israel, treatment takes 90 minutes and involves no radiation or chemotherapy. It's pain free and tests in Latin America showed an impressive clear-up rate and minimal side effects for early stage patients. SOUNDBITE (English) PROF. JACK BANIEL, CHIEF UROLOGIST AT THE RAMAT AVIV MEDICAL CENTER, SAYING: "The patient may be cured, he may not be even cured of his disease but he may have a remedy for 20-30 years which is exactly what we need. Most of these patients are men the age of 60-70, not all of them healthy, and if you give them 10-20 years with good health and without side effects, which is the main thing, then we've done a great thing and we've done a revolution." Israeli start-up Steba Research developed the therapy, in conjunction with Weizmann Insititute professors. It's a focal therapy, which destroys tumours in the prostate while leaving the gland and most tissue intact. Using ultrasound, doctors insert conductors into the body, close to blood vessels feeding the tumour. Illuminating optic fibres are placed inside the conductors. A drug called Tookad that makes light toxic to living tissue is injected into the patient's blood. When doctors light up the optic fibres inside the patient, the cells touched by light die instantly. This patient is delighted with his treatment. SOUNDBITE (English) YARON SFADIA, PATIENT, SAYING: "So one day after the treatment I was back at home and three days later I was back at the office with regular life like before, and today after I got the new MRI I found out that my life is back again and everything is like before, no side affects, sexual life like before and I feel great." The treatment has already been approved in Mexico. Phase III trials are currently taking place in New York and the developers are confident it won't be long before the treatment becomes widespread. Future work to extend the same photodynamic principles to other types of cancers is possible.