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Testicular cancer research

Great progress has been made in recent decades in the treatment of testicular cancer. In the 1960s, the survival rate was shockingly low - only six per cent of men survived the disease. Now, the cure rate is up to 99 per cent if caught early enough. This is largely due to the successful treatments carboplatin, which was developed at the ICR, and cisplatin.

As the incidence of testicular cancer continues to rise around the world, ICR scientists are working to improve our understanding of the genetics behind the disease. They are also investigating the long-term effects of previous and current testicular cancer treatments.

Drugs

Carboplatin has become a standard treatment for a common sub-type of testicular cancer called seminoma. For seminoma patients, a single dose of this drug has proved to be as effective at treating testicular cancer as two to three weeks of radiotherapy, with the added benefit of fewer side-effects. It also allows surgeons to remove just the affected part of a testicle, rather than the whole organ. For developing this life-changing drug, the ICR won the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement in 1991.

ICR scientists are now working to further refine treatments for testicular cancer, including carboplatin, so that patients receive the most effective drug combinations and doses while minimising side-effects.

Genetics

Close relatives of men who have had testicular cancer are up to ten times more likely to develop the disease than men without such a family history. A team led by Dr Clare Turnbull is investigating the importance of genes in this disease. This work builds on previous ICR research that led to the discovery of the first eight common genetic variants associated with testicular cancer.

Using advanced sequencing technologies our scientists are identifying faulty genes that are associated with an increased risk of the disease. By uncovering the genetic basis of testicular cancer, scientists and clinicians can screen men in a higher risk category and catch disease before it becomes invasive. This would mean many men can potentially avoid the side-effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Understanding what genes are involved in the development of testicular cancer could also identify new targets for which treatments could be developed.

If you have had testicular cancer and are interested in participating in Dr Turnbull’s research, please contact gtcs@icr.ac.uk or telephone 020 8722 4053.

 
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