Prostate cancer breakthrough welcomed

Victims of prostate cancer yesterday welcomed new research which could lead to more effective screening and vaccinations to prevent men from developing the disease.

Victims of prostate cancer yesterday welcomed new research which could lead to more effective screening and vaccinations to prevent men from developing the disease.

Groundbreaking research was yesterday revealed by scientists who suggested that prostate cancer may have a viral origin after linking it to a virus known to cause leukaemia in animals.

The disease affects more than 37,000 men a year in the UK and it is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer, yet it still remains one of the most under-funded in terms of research.

The main known risk factors for prostate cancer are genetic susceptibility, old age and poor diet but research suggests that men infected with XMRV, the xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus, may also be more likely to develop the cancer.

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Researchers examined more than 300 tumours and found the infection, known as XMRV, in almost a third of them. This could lead to the creation of antiviral drugs to stave off prostate cancer, or screening programmes to discover who is at risk of developing the condition.

Stephen Hinde, from Attleborough, discovered he had the disease earlier this year following a testing session in Norwich. The 62-year-old father-of-two said any new research is to be welcomed.

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"This disease affects so many men but there is often not as much awareness with this cancer as there is with others," he said. "I hope this research is followed up because any improvements on testing or vaccinations will save lives."

Mr Hinde was one of 31 men, out of the 219 who were tested, over the age of 45 who had abnormal readings and one of five men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The PSA (prostate specific antigens) screening was organised by the Norfolk and Waveney Prostate Cancer Support Group because the tests are not available on the NHS.

Mr Hinde said: "I had no idea I have prostate cancer and if it wasn't for the tests I would never have found out. I am now about to take part in a new treatment programme and will do anything I can do encourage more tests for the disease."

David Haines, from Norwich, is the former chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Prostate Cancer Group and has had prostate cancer for five years.

The 78-year-old said: "There has been a lot of research into prostate cancer and I welcome all of it. We need better screening and men need more access to help.

"The survival rates are better than they used to be and people keep plugging away at making improve-ments but we have a long way to go.

"I welcome this new research, though, and hope scientists continue looking at this disease."

Experts welcomed the findings, but pointed out that it was far too early to say for certain whether the virus was the cause of these tumours, as their presence could simply be a coincidence.

The scientists behind the study, from Utah University in the US, said XMRV was more likely to be present in men who had aggressive cancers - raising the hope of new treatments for them.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, also Lib Dem health spokesman, said: "Prostate cancer is a killer and anything that can help save lives is welcomed."

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