What about benign disease?
Why isn't more research done into non lethal prostate disease, and is this still an important area of research?
Professor Norman Maitland, University of York:
My lab has a grant from Prostate Cancer UK to study benign prostatic hyperplasia. One reason we study that is as a control (non-cancer comparison) for our cancer studies. However, we've begun to pick out all sorts of different features of this disease, which haven't been seen before. Probably 100 men suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia for every man who has prostate cancer. And yet we still don't really know how to treat it - that's embarrassing! The genetic analysis we've done suggests that benign prostatic hyperplasia is actually probably two, three, perhaps even four different diseases, which all do the same thing, and shut off the flow of urine. So what we'd like to do is to resolve this, and say that for a man with this type of disease, we can try treating him this way, for a man with another type, we'll have another drug.
Another question is why do companies not want to develop drugs for benign disease? Well the first reason is that you can't trial them easily. You can trial drugs in men with fatal disease, because the potential benefits often outweigh the risks, but that balance may shift with an experimental treatment for benign disease. But I think if we went out to the population of men and said, ‘I think this will relieve your BPH without surgery and without treating you with a hormone blocker’, they would be very, very cooperative. So I'm excited about the fact that we’re starting to understand the biology of the disease, and then hopefully the treatments will come.
Read more about benign prostate disease.