Cancer Research UK to trial testosterone on male cancer survivors
Cancer Research UK has launched a trial this week to investigate the possibility of male cancer survivors benefiting from hormone replacement (HRT) with testosterone.
The move follows on from research conducted at the Sheffield Cancer Research Centre which found that one in every 450 male cancer survivors (some 23,800 in total) have testosterone levels which have dropped below the normal level due to the treatments they have been given.
Funded by the charity and the Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, the study will look to give male cancer victims aged between 25 and 50 a gel which contains testosterone and can be rubbed into their skin, where it can enter the bloodstream.
They will then use a placebo to test the effectiveness of testosterone against things such as weight gain, energy use and sex drive.
“Low testosterone levels are a common long term side effect of treatment for certain male cancers, such as testicular cancer, lymphoma or acute leukaemia,” said Richard Ross, chief investigator professor at the University of Sheffield.
“We know that in a few cases those with very low levels will need hormone replacement therapy with testosterone. This study is looking at whether those with only slightly low levels of testosterone – a much larger group of men – would also benefit from this treatment.”
The Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at the University of Leeds will provide additional help and support during the trials, which will see 270 men who have survived cancer volunteering to take part at hospitals right across the United Kingdom.
31-year-old James Ashton from Sheffield, and an Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Sheffield, is one of the key supporters of the new research. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was just 21 and had to undergo surgery and radiotherapy to be cured of the disease.
However, the cancer came back when he was 25 and he needed further surgery and chemotherapy. Thankfully, he is now free of the disease and leads a normal life.
“I know I’m one of the lucky ones because here I am today alive and well, but in terms of the long term side effects of my treatment I’ve had as rough a time as anyone,” he said.
“This trial is so important for young male cancer survivors like me, who have to live with the effects of having low testosterone levels as a result of their treatment.
“Since being diagnosed with cancer I’ve been involved in all sorts of research aimed at helping teenagers and young adults affected by cancer and when I was invited to be a patient advisor for this trial, I jumped at the chance. I hope the trial is a huge success so that in future more young men like me who are surviving cancer can benefit from new ways of managing the lasting effects of treatment.”
Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said that it is relatively uncommon for males to be diagnosed with cancer at an age as young as Mr Ashton but the good news is that younger patients have much better survival rates.
“Many of these men will have long term side effects as the result of their treatment, so finding a way to ease these symptoms is potentially very exciting, because it could really improve the quality of life for thousands of men in the UK,” she added.
“We are delighted to be supporting this trial and look forward to seeing the results, anticipated in 2015.”