Treating prostate cancer with radiotherapy alongside standard treatment could provide extended survival time for thousands of men with the disease, a UK study suggests.
The study results, published in The Lancet and presented at the Munich congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology, found that radiotherapy increased survival rates by 11 per cent for men whose cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes or bones.
Until now, doctors were unsure of whether there was any point in treating the prostate itself once the disease has spread, however, the research suggests radiotherapy could become a standard treatment alongside hormone therapy for men with prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. More than 3,100 Australian men die from prostate cancer each year, with one in five males risk developing prostate cancer by age 85.
The trial, funded by Cancer Research UK, involved 2,000 men with advanced prostate cancer. Half were given standard treatment, typically hormone therapy, and half also received radiotherapy to the prostate.
Researchers found that around 80 per cent of those in the study who received standard treatment and radiotherapy survived for at least three years. For men who didn’t have additional radiotherapy, around 70 per cent were still alive at the same time point.
Radiotherapy to the prostate itself did not appear to help men whose cancer had spread to other organs or distant bones.
Chris Parker, lead researcher of the study who is based at the Royal Marsden Hospital, said: “Our results show a powerful effect for certain men with advanced prostate cancer. These findings could and should change the standard of care worldwide.
“Until now, it was thought that there was no point in treating the prostate itself if the cancer had already spread, because it would be like shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted. However, this study proves the benefit of prostate radiotherapy for these men.”
Unlike many new drugs for cancer, Parker said radiotherapy can be a particularly effective option because it’s a simple, relatively cheap treatment that is available in most parts of the world.
Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, added: “This is a monumental finding that could help thousands of men worldwide.
“We now need to investigate whether this could also work for other types of cancer. If we can understand exactly why these men benefit from the additional radiotherapy treatment, we could hopefully use this approach to benefit even more patients.”