The tomato-derived antioxidant lycopene could help the recovery of patients who have been treated for advanced prostate cancer, say researchers reporting on a small trial.
The team from New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Science found that patients who took lycopene at the same time as undergoing orchidectomy (castration) to treat spreading prostate cancer saw a more marked reduction in prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, an indicator of cancer clearance.
"Adding lycopene to orchidectomy produced a more reliable and consistent decrease in serum PSA level; it not only shrinks the primary tumor but also diminishes the secondary tumors, providing better relief from bone pain and lower urinary tract symptoms, and improving survival compared with orchidectomy alone," write the researchers in the September issue of the British Journal of Urology International.
Scientists have previously shown that a high level of lycopene in the blood serum correlates to a lower risk of prostate cancer. The carotenoid has also been linked to lower incidence of other cancers and improved heart health. But there is less evidence to show whether it can fight or treat prostate cancer at more developed stages.
The new study was carried out on 54 patients with confirmed metastatic prostatic cancer between March 2000 and June 2002. Half of the patients were randomised to orchidectomy alone and the other half to orchidectomy plus lycopene, taken in a dose of 2mg twice daily from the day of surgery.
Patients were evaluated clinically before and every three months after the intervention to measure PSA, a bone scan and uroflowmetry.
Both groups of patients had a significant reduction in PSA levels, but in the lycopene group it fell from 251 units before surgery to 9 at six months, and to 3 after two years. This compared with 260 dropping to 26 and then 9 in the other group.
Eleven (40 per cent) orchidectomy patients had a complete PSA response compared to 21, or 78 per cent, in the lycopene group. Also bone scans showed that in the orchidectomy arm only four patients had a complete response, compared to eight in the group taking lycopene supplements. There was a significant improvement in peak flow rate in the lycopene group, added the researchers.
Lycopene also appeared to reduce mortality, with seven of those receiving the nutrient dying by the end of the trial compared to 12 (22 per cent) of those who had only received surgery.
Last week, researchers announced they are to test the effectiveness of the Lyc-o-mato tomato lycopene complex, made by Israeli firm LycoRed, in reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men with biopsy-detected lesions likely to progress to prostate cancer.