Sheffield researchers launch trial into testosterone replacement for male cancer survivors

Cancer Research UK-funded researchers from the University of Sheffield and Weston Park Hospital have today launched a trial to see if male cancer survivors could benefit from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with testosterone.

A cancer research scientistAccording to the researchers, around one in 450 male cancer survivors – equivalent to 23,800 men in the UK – are thought to have below average testosterone levels as a result of their treatment, causing side effects such as weight gain, less energy and lower sex drive.

The trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity in Sheffield, is looking at giving male cancer survivors aged 25-50 a gel containing testosterone, which is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream*. The impact of this on potential side effects of treatment will be compared to that of a placebo gel.

Chief Investigator Professor Richard Ross, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Human Metabolism, said: “Low testosterone levels are a common long term side effect of treatment for certain male cancers, such as testicular cancer, lymphoma or acute leukaemia. We know that in a few cases those with very low levels will need hormone replacement therapy with testosterone. This study is looking at whether those with only slightly low levels of testosterone – a much larger group of men – would also benefit from this treatment.”

The large-scale study has come about after Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity - which supports the work of Weston Park Hospital - funded a £500,000 preliminary study, involving 200 patients. The results of this study led researchers to believe that a more in-depth investigation was needed.

The trial is being run by the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at the University of Leeds. About 270 male cancer survivors aged between 25-50 will be recruited to take part at Weston Park Hospital and Royal Hallamshire Hospitals in Sheffield and at 10 other research centres around the UK.

Professor Ross added: “Thanks to supporters of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity we were able to carry out a detailed study to define the frequency of low testosterone levels after chemotherapy in young men. The results have now paved the way for a treatment trial which is being funded by Cancer Research UK with support from Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity. The study is the first of its kind and could, potentially improve the quality of life of many thousands of men across the UK.”

Cancer cellsJames Ashton, 31, who is studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield, was first diagnosed with testicular cancer aged 21 and had surgery and radiotherapy to treat the disease. Unfortunately the cancer came back and he needed further surgery and chemotherapy aged 25. But ten years on James says he’s cancer-free and “hopes to remain that way”.

He added: “I know I’m one of the lucky ones because here I am today alive and well, but in terms of the long term side effects of my treatment I’ve had as rough a time as anyone. This trial is so important for young male cancer survivors like me, who have to live with the effects of having low testosterone levels as a result of their treatment. Since being diagnosed with cancer I’ve been involved in all sorts of research aimed at helping teenagers and young adults affected by cancer and when I was invited to be a patient advisor for this trial, I jumped at the chance. I hope the trial is a huge success so that in future more young men like me who are surviving cancer can benefit from new ways of managing the lasting effects of treatment.”

Rachel Thorpe, Director of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, said: “Supporting research is one of the key aims of the charity and we are very proud that the funding we provided has paved the way for this large scale trial. Thank you to all our supporters who continue to help us raise £1.3 million a year. This money supports research; cancer treatment and cancer care at Weston Park Hospital and makes a difference to many thousands of people in our region each year.”

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Clinical Research, said: “It’s relatively uncommon for men to be diagnosed with cancer at a young age, but the good news is that younger patients are also more likely to survive their disease. Many of these men will have long term side effects as the result of their treatment, so finding a way to ease these symptoms is potentially very exciting, because it could really improve the quality of life for thousands of men in the UK. We are delighted to be supporting this trial and look forward to seeing the results, anticipated in 2015.”

Additional information

* Pro Strakan Ltd is providing the drug and placebo.

For more information about the trial, please visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk or call the Cancer Research UK cancer information nurses on 0808 800 4040.

The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK´s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen´s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom´s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University´s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

Weston Park Hospital
•Weston Park Hospital is the only dedicated cancer hospital in the region and one of only three in the UK, and has the only radiotherapy department in South Yorkshire. It provides cancer treatment services for patients across the region which means that patients from Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, Worksop and Chesterfield, as well as Sheffield and beyond, benefit from donations made to the charity.
•Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity is the only bespoke charity for Weston Park Hospital and exists to raise funds to help pay for world class cancer research, cancer treatment and cancer care at the hospital.
•There are many ways to support the charity and to find out more visit http://www.wphcancercharity.org.uk

Sheffield Cancer Research Centre
•The Sheffield Cancer Research Centre is one of 17 Cancer Research UK Centres across the UK. It brings together world-class scientists, doctors and nurses in Yorkshire to push forward advances in cancer treatment faster than ever before.
•By building on local academic and clinical expertise, the Sheffield Centre will enable the city to develop as a major hub for cancer research.
•The centre is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Yorkshire Cancer Research, the University of Sheffield, the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.
•Research at the Sheffield Centre will cover many different types of cancer, with a particular focus on breast, lung and bone cancers.

Cancer Research UK
•Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research
•The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.
•Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
•Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
•Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1861 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

Contact

For further information please contact:

Amy Stone
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046
a.f.stone@sheffield.ac.uk