The study, in which took part 41 men, was the first to use an experimental treatment known as HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound).
Its target are the tiny areas of cancer only a few millimetres in size. This type of technique is known as focal therapy. Currently patients are treated with either with radiotherapy which targets a larger area, or surgery to remove the prostate completely, claims CBS News.
Unfortunately, both methods raise a great risk of damaging to surrounding healthy tissue and can lead to side effects such as urinary incontinence, trouble with erections and rectal problems.
12 months after the start of HIFU treatment (some men had it more than once), none of the 41 men had incontinence, only one in 10 suffered from poor erections, and the majority (95%) were free of cancer, according to results published in Lancet Oncology.
Dr Hashim Ahmed of University College London Hospital said: “Our results are very encouraging. We’re optimistic that men diagnosed with prostate cancer may soon be able to undergo a day case surgical procedure, which can be safely repeated once or twice, to treat their condition with very few side effects.
He added: “That could mean a significant improvement in their quality of life. Focal therapy of individual prostate cancer lesions, whether multifocal or unifocal, leads to a low rate of genitourinary side-effects and an encouraging rate of early absence of clinically significant prostate cancer.”
As the National Cancer Institute predicts, there will be an estimated 241,740 new cases of prostate cancer in the U.S. in 2012 and the disease will cause 28,170 deaths. More than 2 million American men have survived prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society reported.
The research programme is led by Professor Mark Emberton, of UCL and UCLH. He said: “Focal therapy offers harm reduction – it is a strategy that attempts to redress the balance of harms and benefits by offering men who place high utility on genito-urinary function an alternative to standard care.”
Professor Gillies McKenna, director of the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, said: “If these promising results can be confirmed in a randomised controlled trial, focal therapy could soon become a reasonable treatment choice for prostate cancer alongside other proven effective therapies.”
The news comes a few days after actor Ryan O’Neal, 70, revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer, correcting reports that he was suffering from stage 4 cancer.
In a statement released O’Neal said that while he was “shocked and stunned by the news,” he had reason to feel fortunate. “It was detected early, and according to my extraordinary team of doctors, the prognosis is positive for a full recovery,” he explained.
O’Neal continued, “I am deeply grateful for the support of my friends and family during this time, and I urge everyone to get regular check-ups, as early detection is the best defense against this horrible disease that has affected so many.”
The actor was treated in the late 1990s for leukemia, which causes the bone marrow to produce too many white blood cells.
The cancer diagnosis comes about three years after he lost his longtime love Farrah Fawcett, who died of anal cancer at age 62. Ryan has a memoir about his life with Fawcett called Both of Us coming out May 1.