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Will Compound from Bacteria Offer Hope for Prostate Cancer?

Padeliporfin, a compound from bacteria that live on the sea floor, may offer a way to use laser light to kill small prostate tumors selectively.
Will Compound from Bacteria Offer Hope for Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer of a human, highly detailed segment of panorama. Photomicrograph as seen under the microscope, 10x zoom.

An interesting new treatment for early stage prostate cancer is making headlines. Researchers describe a unique approach called vascular targeted photodynamic therapy or VPT. It utilizes the unique properties of a compound from bacteria found on the sea floor.

How Do Doctors Use the Compound from Bacteria?

In this study, men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer were randomly assigned to active surveillance (207) or to the new treatment (206). Those selected for treatment went through anesthesia and an MRI while optic fibers were threaded into the prostate tumor. Then the drug padeliporfin, a light-sensitive compound from bacteria, was injected. Once padeliporfin penetrated the prostate gland, red laser light was sent through the fibers to activate the drug and kill cancer cells. Healthy tissue is supposed to remain unharmed.

This procedure has now been tested in 415 men at 47 medical centers across Europe. The follow-up for both groups included PSA measurements every three months and a prostate biopsy every year.

The Results of VPT:

After two years, about half the men who underwent VPT were judged cancer free. That compares to about 14 percent of those treated with active surveillance. Cancer had progressed in 28 percent of those in the treatment group, compared to 58 percent of the men under active surveillance. The authors conclude, “Padeliporfin vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy is a safe, effective treatment for low-risk, localised prostate cancer.”

Whether this treatment will work for more advanced prostate cancer remains to be determined.

The Lancet Oncology, Dec. 19, 2016

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Stephen Freedland of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles notes that death from prostate cancer is extremely rare in men with such low-risk disease. But complications of treatments such as prostatectomy are not unusual. Thus, a treatment that had few if any side effects might be considered helpful for men in this situation. We’ll have to wait and see whether this compound from bacteria proves to offer the benefits that we hope it can.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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