Thalidomide, which caused babies to be born without limbs due to its effect on blood vessel development, could be used to prevent tumours forming.
By adding Thalidomide to androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), which prevents the male hormone testosterone fuelling tumours, it could block the growth of new blood vessels supplying tumours with vital oxygen and nutrients.
Research has found using the drug in this way increases progression-free survival.
Patients receiving ‘intermittent’ ADT were tested with thalidomide to see if it reduced side effects and the chances of tumours growing resistant to the treatment.
Between treatments, blood tests for prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker molecule for prostate cancer, are carried out to see if the disease is returning.
The results showed thalidomide increased the typical time before PSA after administering ADT from 6.6 to 17 months.
Study leader Dr William Figg, from the National Institutes of Health, Maryland, US, said: ‘Thalidomide is associated with an increase in PSA progression-free survival in men with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer after intermittent ADT. These effects were independent of any effects on testosterone.’