Prostate Cancer Patients Swap Chemo for Precision Drugs during Pandemic

The COVID19 pandemic has placed an incalculable amount of pressure on the National Health Service and to help relieve this, NHS England has announced that patients with advanced prostate cancer can replace their hospital-based chemotherapy treatments, with highly specific hormone therapy medication that is self-administered at home. This essentially lessens the impact on more time-critical cases and facilitates normal provision of vital cancer treatments.

Prostate cancer and COVID-19 impact
Credit: Getty Images Ltd.

Until this recent announcement, doctors were unable to prescribe less-invasive HRT at the time of diagnosis; this is despite the fact that other cancers were being treated using the same HRT medication. These specific medicines are proven to be beneficial and could improve the life expectancy of numerous prostate cancer patients; they’ve been available in England, Wales and more recently, Scotland, but only where alternative HRT treatment had failed.

Prof. Peter Johnson is the National Clinical Director for cancer; he shared his insight on this recent development.

“The NHS has been working hard to ensure the safety of cancer patients during the pandemic…Switching from chemotherapy to hormone treatments for prostate cancer is just one example of how we are adapting our approach to help thousands of cancer patients across the country continue to access the care they need.”

HRT medicines block the impact that testosterone has on cancerous prostate cells and in turn, prevents their growth; some of these medicines are also specifically designed to prevent testosterone production within the body. Prof. Nick James, who conducts essential medicinal trials at London’s Institute of Cancer Research, also responded to the announcement, highlighting more key benefits of this latest development in cancer treatment capability.

“I’m pleased and relieved that many more men should now benefit from targeted hormone therapies right from when they are first diagnosed… It will greatly lower the risk of exposing vulnerable patients to the coronavirus and lightens the load on our hard-pressed hospitals… Men can take their tablets at home and have their bloods checked by their GP… And, unlike chemotherapy, enzalutamide and abiraterone have no significant effects on patients’ immune system.”

Initially, some patients feared the impact that coronavirus would have on their compromised immune systems or by default, their current course of prostate cancer treatment; patients then saw the widespread cancellation of cancer treatment sessions. Now HRT medication has been made readily available and the need to visit a hospital removed, patients can continue with effective cancer treatment in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

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