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New Kiwi Research: Hope in Fight Against Cancer

Media Release November 15, 2009

New Kiwi research into current prostate cancer treatments could help save lives and ease the suffering of those with this disease.

Every year 3000 Kiwi men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and around 600 die. This makes prostate cancer the second largest cause of male cancer deaths in New Zealand, after smoking-associated cancers.

The Chief Executive of the Cancer Society, Dalton Kelly, says the research being carried out is crucial to improving survival rates and treatments of prostate cancer and has been made possible with funds from a charitable donation by Movember.

Movember is a month-long charity event that aims to raise awareness about men’s health issues.

Last year Kiwi’s raised more than $900,000 with the funds split between two New Zealand charities – the Cancer Society and the Mental Health Foundation for its “Out of the Blue” depression awareness campaign.

Movember funds are providing further financial support for an ongoing study into the use of hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer and financing another study on improving the health and well-being of men with prostate cancer through a programme of physical activity.

The Medical Advisor for the Cancer Society, Associate Professor Chris Atkinson, says prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among males and many need to undergo androgen deprivation therapy (ADP) as part of their treatment.

“Locally advanced cases are more successfully treated by radiation and ADP rather than with just radiation treatment alone. The unfortunate down-side of the ADP hormone treatment is that it can cause side-effects,” he says.

Atkinson says patients undergoing ADP treatment for an extended period can develop osteoporosis.

The RADAR Prostate Cancer Trial is investigating how to prevent osteoporosis by studying the impact on bone density that varying lengths of ADP treatments have. Scientists will also determine if the incidence of osteoporosis can be reduced with the use of bone-hardening drugs (bisphosphonates).

The study is headed by Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor David Lamb. Once completed, it is estimated 1060 men with prostate cancer will have participated in the clinical trial in New Zealand and Australia.

Atkinson says if the main hypothesis is confirmed, then around 1000 of the 4000 Australians and New Zealanders who present with localised prostate cancer each year will benefit greatly from the research.

“The results of the study, as they continue to be analysed, will alter how treatment for men with prostate cancer will be managed in the future. This is a hugely positive step for the treatment of prostate cancer,” he says.

The second study to be assisted with Movember funding looks at physical activity programmes as a way to improve the health and well-being of men with prostate cancer who are using ADP hormone therapy.

The year-long study at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) will investigate whether a programme of physical activity can enhance the health and quality of life of prostate cancer patients undergoing this hormone treatment.

International studies have indicated that physical activity can reverse many of ADP’s negative side-effects but until now, not enough has been done to investigate how many patients regularly undertake physical activity.

If successful, the study headed by AUT University Senior Lecturers Dr Justin Keogh and Dr Daniel Shepherd, will be used to create a physical activity programme for patients that will aim to reduce, if not reverse, the impact that this drug treatment has on patient’s health and well-being.

“The implications of this study for prostate cancer patients undergoing ADP treatment are huge. Many patients struggle through a myriad of negative side-effects when fighting cancer and any progress in this area, which can help make them more comfortable during this difficult time, will be well-received”, says Atkinson.

Mr Kelly says the results of the AUT study are of great interest as the research is expected to be relevant to national health strategies including those of the Cancer Society of New Zealand and the Cancer Control Council.

Movember organiser Jim Slattery says New Zealand men and women should be extremely proud that the money they have raised will have such a profound impact on men’s health.

“The Movember Foundation is delighted the money donated to the Cancer Society has gone to such worthy projects and we look forward to raising even more this year in aid of charity.”

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