The Medical Research Council and National Cancer Institute of Canada- funded trial studied 1,200 men with locally advanced prostate cancer. All received standard hormone therapy and half were given radiotherapy to see if adding radiotherapy increased the number of men who survived the disease.
Preliminary results from the trial show that 79 per cent of men who had hormone therapy alone were still alive after seven years, compared with 90 per cent of men who received radiotherapy with hormone therapy.
Hormone therapy has long been a standard treatment for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer relies on the hormone testosterone to grow, so by controlling testosterone it is possible to slow down or shrink the tumour. While this treatment can work well for several years, for some men the cancer stops responding and starts growing again.
Professor Malcolm Mason, trial leader based at Cardiff University and Velindre Hospital and medical advisor to Cancer Research Wales, said: “These exciting results clearly show how radiotherapy increases survival for men with this type of prostate cancer. Currently, we estimate that around 40 per cent of men like those in the trial are given radiotherapy in the UK, and we hope that thanks to these results more men will now be offered this important option.”
Half of the men who chose to join the trial were given radiotherapy five days a week for between six and seven weeks as outpatients. The side effects were generally mild –some had discomfort or increased frequency of urination or diarrhoea.
Professor Mason added: “Compared to the advanced radiotherapy techniques used today, those used earlier in the trial were less intensive, so it’s possible that the benefits with today’s radiotherapy may be even greater.”
Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “This trial offers fresh hope to thousands of men with prostate cancer, preventing hundreds of deaths every year. Radiotherapy is sometimes an overlooked form of treatment but this trial shows how vital it can be.”
Professor Max Parmar, Director of the MRC Clinical Trials Unit, says: “The interim results of this trial are extremely encouraging. The side-effects of radiotherapy are minimal and we are delighted that, through the combined efforts of patients, clinicians and researchers across the world, we are providing robust evidence to demonstrate that radiotherapy can benefit men with high risk prostate cancer.”
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Notes to editors
Read the conference abstract here