Advanced prostate cancer deaths can be reduced if radiation treatment is combined with hormonal therapy, new research shows.
Experts at the University of Cardiff carried out a study of 1,200 men with locally advanced cancers and discovered that combining the two treatments resulted in 43% fewer deaths after seven years.
All the participants in the trial were given the standard hormone therapy, which works by preventing testosterone fuelling the cancer, while half were also given radiation treatment.
Early results revealed that 79% of men who had hormone therapy alone were alive seven years later, compared with 90% who received both radiotherapy and hormone drugs.
Hormone treatments can work well but some men stop responding to them after a few years.
Trial leader professor Malcolm Mason, from the University of Cardiff in 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% 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.”
The men who received radiotherapy were treated as outpatients for five days a week for between six and seven weeks.
Initial side effects were mild, causing some men to suffer discomfort, feel the need to urinate frequently, or experience diarrhoea.
However, radiotherapy is not a “soft option” for prostate cancer. It has long-term effects that may not be seen for three or four years, including a risk of impotency.
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.”