Research conducted by universities in Glasgow has revealed that a worm infection drug could enhance the effects of chemotherapy in prostate cancer.

The study, led by the University of Glasgow and the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and done in collaboration with research at the University of Strathclyde, tested almost 1,000 existing medicines.

It found that mebendazole (a commonly used drug to treat worms that costs £2 per pill) worked in combination with another drug named docetaxel, which is widely used in chemotherapy, to enhance its ability to kill prostate cancer cells and decrease tumour growth. 

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Scientists now say that the game-changing treatment could be available to patients "within three to four years". 

Dr Helen Rippon, Chief Executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, who helped fund the study, said: “This research could be a real game-changer for prostate cancer patients. Docetaxel is the main chemotherapy used to treat prostate cancer, but many patients end up developing resistance to the drug and their cancer comes back. This bold new idea shows how we can use already existing medicines to bolster the effects of chemotherapy and hopefully improve outcomes for people with prostate cancer. We are excited to follow the progress of the research team as they take their work forward into clinical trials.

“Prostate cancer kills nearly 12,000 people every year in the UK. This research is an encouraging first-step towards kinder, more effective treatments that will ultimately save more lives.” 

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Professor Hing Leung of Urology and Surgical Oncology at the University of Glasgow added: “We are currently developing a clinical study design that will be able to determine the best dose and administration schedule to be used along with docetaxel. The aim would be to allow the drugs to work together while producing the lowest side effects. Once this has been shown to be effective in treating prostate cancer, the combination treatment could be adopted widely in patients with prostate cancer. We think that this could be available to patients within 3-4 years.” 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men and the second most common cause of cancer death for men in the UK.

The next step in the research is to test the new drug combination in people with prostate cancer to see if it's safe and performs better than current treatments.