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English/Nat British scientists are claiming a major breakthrough in the fight against prostate cancer - a disease which kills hundreds of thousands of men worldwide every year. The scientists are planning to develop a simple test for the disease - based on a lethal poison produced by the puffer fish, a prized delicacy in Japan. It looks innocent enough - but the puffer fish is most dangerous when it's dead. It produces a poison that's one thousand times more lethal than arsenic. No wonder it takes years to train a Japanese chef in the fine art of preparing the puffer fish for the table. If he's good, you get a gourmet meal fit for a king. But if the chef fails to cut out all the poisonous bits, you don't live to complain. However, there's an unexpected twist to the tale - it's one of the great ironies of nature - and it's just been discovered by scientists in Britain. Researchers have found that the lethal toxin produced by the puffer fish can stop the spread of prostate cancer. A disease increasingly prevalent, mainly in elderly men. It all started with a question. Why do malignant prostate cancer cells spread around and form tumours? The answer, say scientists, is that malignant cells have a special protein which gives them the energy to move. Researchers measured the electricity given off by malignant cells, and found readings far higher than in benign cells. But there's one thing that blocks the protein - and stops the malignant cells dead in their tracks. It's the poison from puffer fish. Professor Mustafa Djamgoz (pron: JAM-goz) heads the research team here at Imperial College in London. SOUNDBITE: The link with the puffer fish is that the puffer fish toxin tetrodotoxin blocks the action of this protein, and since the protein drives the cells movement and their ability to spread and invade other tissues and form secondary tumours, the toxin can be used to suppress the cancer. SUPER CAPTION: Professor Mustafa Djamgoz, Imperial College, London Prostate cancer only kills if it spreads - but it's hard to predict whether it will. Surgeons often feel they have to operate just in case, even though the operation itself can be life- threatening. That kind of guesswork could soon be a thing of the past, according to Professor Djamgoz. The new discovery, he says, should enable doctors to identify those patients who will develop tumours, and those who won't. SOUNDBITE: During the operation, you can look at a patient's prostate and you can't really tell whether it will spread and form secondary tumours and ultimately kill the person or whether it may stay quite benign for a long time. This has not been possible and it is still not possible today and the promise of our findings is that the protein in question, because it is linked with metastatic activity, with the spreading of the tumour, could help make this decision. SUPER CAPTION: Professor Mustafa Djamgoz, Imperial College, London Japan has one of the lowest levels of prostate cancer in the world. Whether that's because of the Japanese appetite for puffer fish has yet to be proved. Certainly nobody is talking of this as a possible cure. But the discovery does appear to hold out new hope of prevention for the millions of people struck down by this disease every year. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/f2f01278f5c40e56d09fedb4ec9b255c Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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