According to the researchers, based at Sheffield Cancer Research Centre, around 1 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.
The trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, 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 cancer treatment – such as weight gain, less energy and low sex drive – will be compared to that of a placebo gel.
Chief Investigator Professor Richard Ross, (pictured) from the University of Sheffield, 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.”
Around 270 male cancer survivors aged 25-50 will be recruited to take part at participating hospitals around the UK. The trial is being run with help from the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at the University of Leeds.
James Ashton, 31, lives in Sheffield, where he’s studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield. He 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 from his diagnosis James says he’s cancer-free and “hopes to remain that way”.
He said: “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.”
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.”
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