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Radiotherapy could help prostate cancer survival rates

23 October 2018 09:42

11,500 men die from prostate cancer every year

11,500 men die from prostate cancer every year

Radiotherapy could help extend the life of patients living with prostate cancer, according to new research.

In one of the largest ever clinical trials into the disease, scientists found that radiotherapy on top of regular treatment led to an 11% increase in the survival rate of some patients.

The research found that there could still be a benefit to treating the prostrate with radiotherapy, even if the disease has already spread from the primary site of the tumour.

In men whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes and/or bones, 80% of those who underwent radiotherapy survived for at least three years, compared to just 70% of those who didn't have radiotherapy.

Standard treatment plus radiotherapy

The Stampede trial opened in 2005 and has so far involved more than 10,000 participants - 2,000 of whom had advanced forms of the disease - and is based at University College London.

Of those 2,000 with advanced prostate cancer, half were given standard treatment while the other half were given standard treatment plus radiotherapy.

But the team of scientists found the benefit was unique to those whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes and/or nearby bones, and did not appear to increase survival among men whose cancer had spread to other organs or more distant bones.

Funded by Cancer Research UK, the research suggests radiotherapy could become a standard treatment alongside hormone therapy for men with prostate cancer.

Around 47,000 men are diagnosed with the disease every year and 11,500 die of it, according to Cancer Research UK's figures. The findings suggest that pairing radiotherapy with standard treatment could help 3,000 men each year in the UK alone.

Relatively cheap treatment

Lead researcher Dr Chris Parker, who is based at the Royal Marsden Hospital in west London, said using radiotherapy when the cancer had already spread had previously been seen as "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted".

He said the findings could change standards of care across the globe, adding: "Unlike many new drugs for cancer, radiotherapy is a simple, relatively cheap treatment that is readily available in most parts of the world."

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Adding radiotherapy to current treatment shows clear benefit for this subgroup of men with prostate cancer.

"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."

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