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Scientists praised by champion jockey after developing test to stop cancer patients get unnecessary treatment which can cause impotence

PUBLISHED: 12:51 01 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:51 01 March 2017

The Bob Champion Research and Education Building at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.

The Bob Champion Research and Education Building at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.

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A former Grand National champion has praised researchers after they developed a new test that helps cancer patients avoid being given damaging and unnecessary treatment which can result in impotence.

Professor Colin Cooper, of Norwich Medical School. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.Professor Colin Cooper, of Norwich Medical School. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.

The test, created by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA), relates to prostate cancer.

Each year around 46,000 men in the UK develop the illness, and around 11,000 men die from it every year.

However, unlike many cancers, more than 50pc of prostate cancer cases cause no symptoms and are never life-threatening.

But it has not been possible at the point of diagnosis to reliably distinguish these from clinically important cancers.

Now a test has been developed to help identify the clinically important cancers, which researchers believe can prevent up to 23,000 unnecessary operations every year.

Jockey Bob Champion, who won the Grand National on Aldaniti two years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, said: “We are extremely excited about the success of this test and very grateful to the research team.

“This will help the quality of life for so many men in the future.”

His organisation, the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, was among several bodies which funded the research.

The work was carried out by Professor Colin Cooper and Dr Daniel Brewer, of Norwich Medical School, in collaboration with Professor Vincent Moulton and Dr Bogdan Luca, of UEA’s School of Computing Science.

The work was carried out by researchers at the University of East Anglia. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.The work was carried out by researchers at the University of East Anglia. Picture submitted by University of East Anglia.

Professor Cooper said: “Previously, distinguishing the dangerous ‘tigers’ from the less threatening ‘pussycats’ has not been possible for many men.

“Curative treatment of early prostate cancer by surgery or radiotherapy needs to ideally be targeted to the minority of men with significant cancers, so that the remainder are spared the side-effects of treatment, which frequently includes impotence.

“Improved clinical markers are therefore required to predict behaviour allowing radical therapies to be targeted to men with significant cancers, so that the remainder, with biologically unimportant disease, are spared the side-effects of treatment.”

He added: “The existence of this distinction is a significant step in assisting in the targeting of appropriate therapy, and helping to avoid over-treatment.”

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