TECH

Why A Cancer Drug Could Change The Way A Paedophile's Brain Works

'They have difficulties in managing their arousal.'

07/04/2016 14:06 | Updated 08 April 2016
Scientists are investigating whether a cancer drug could help men who are sexually aroused by children, control their urges.
 
The team in Stockholm, Sweden, are focusing on Degarelix, which typically treats prostate cancer by reducing the level of testosterone -- a hormone needed for cancer cells to grow. 
 
"Chemical castration" is not a new idea. However, this is the first time researchers are looking at how the drug will impact specific regions of the brain associated emotion.
Dorling Kindersley
Limbic system
Forensic psychiatrist Professor Donald Grubin, from the University of Newcastle, told the Huffington Post UK why the research is breaking new ground. 
 
In the case of prostate cancer, the tumours are treated with traditional drugs such as Cyproterone acetate, also considered "treatment" for paedophiles.
 
"It acts by blocking testosterone receptors on the cells," Grubin said, similar to filling a lock so that its key doesn't work.
 
This not only reduces testosterone activity but lowers the level of testosterone production in the testes. 
 
The interesting aspect of the Swedish team's study is that they're not simply looking at testosterone levels, Grubin explained.
 
The psychiatrist, who also acts as a consultant for the Ministry of Justice's sex offenders programme, said nobody has ever looked at how a cancer drug affects the limbic system in the brain.
 
"The lymbic system is involved in sex drive, aggression, violence and anger responses."
 
Essentially, the drug influences the limbic system by acting on another hormone known as GnRH.
 
"If you're blocking the activity of GnRH this may then have an effect on hostility, aggression, anger and those sorts of emotions."
 
He added: "We don't know if action on the lymbic system will have a benefit [on reducing sexual arousal] or not -- it's has never been looked at before."
 
Grubin treats sex offenders and cautions against getting too excited over the study's potential findings, which will be based on 60 volunteers.
 
"The numbers do seem quite little to me," he said.
 
"Nobody is saying this a cure for paedophoilia, it just helps men manage sexual arousal," he explained.  
 
"The aim is to lower the arousal which can make them more amenable to psychological treatment.
 
"Some of them will only need to be on the medication for two to three years, some will need to be on it for many years. 
 
"If you're aroused just to kids -- you're in a difficult position and some choose to be asexual."
 
"People I deal with are offenders -- some of these men are clear that they have difficulties in managing their arousal. 
 
"Sex offending is about sex and it is a biological drive and it can be influenced by medication but it is not something you can give to everybody."
 
Asked about the medication's side effects he said that it can be unpleasant, including "hot flushes, night sweats, fatigue and breast growth."
 
For the Swedish researchers however, the results could birth a bigger gain that highlights individuals who are at risk of harming children, before any damage is done.
 
“With this research project, I want to shift focus and explore methods of preventing child sexual abuse from happening in the first place,” lead researcher, Dr Christoffer Rahm, told the Press Association. 
 
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