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Cancer trial shows treating the prostate with radiotherapy improves survival

22 Oct 2018

Treating the prostate with radiotherapy alongside standard treatment led to a three-year survival rate of 81%, compared to 73% in those who didn’t receive radiotherapy, for some men with advanced prostate cancer, a study based at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London has found.

These findings, from one of the largest ever clinical trials for the disease, are being presented at the 2018 ESMO Annual Meeting in Munich, Germany, and published in The Lancet.

Previously, it was unclear if there was any benefit treating the prostate directly with radiotherapy, if the cancer had already spread. This research helps answer that question and has implications beyond prostate cancer.

The findings from the STAMPEDE trial, funded by Cancer Research UK and the MRC, could be practice changing and suggest radiotherapy, alongside hormone therapy, should become the standard of care for a group of men with advanced prostate cancer, affecting thousands every year in the UK.

This part of the STAMPEDE study involved around 2,000 men who had advanced disease. Half were given standard treatment while the other half received standard treatment and radiotherapy to the prostate – the site of the primary tumour.

They found among men whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes and/or nearby bones and were treated with additional radiotherapy, around 80% survived for at least three years. In comparison, 70% of men who did not have the additional radiotherapy treatment, were alive after three years. The benefit was unique to this group of men, with no increase in survival among men whose cancer had spread further to other organs or distant bones.

Around 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK and over 11,500 men die from the disease.

Dr Chris Parker, lead researcher of the study based at The Royal Marsden, said: “Our results show a powerful effect for certain men with advanced prostate cancer. These findings could and should change 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 has bolted. However, this study proves the benefit of prostate radiotherapy for these men. Unlike many new drugs for cancer, radiotherapy is a simple, relatively cheap treatment that is readily available in most parts of the world.”

Professor Max Parmar, director of the MRC Clinical Trials Unit where STAMPEDE is based, said: “STAMPEDE is changing the face of prostate cancer research because the scale and adaptive nature of the study mean that a number of different treatment options can be investigated rapidly and in parallel, and new treatments to be tested can be added. This is enabling scientists to get results much more quickly than they usually would. More data will come out in subsequent years, because of the innovative design of the trial. This shows us the importance of investing in more adaptive trials like STAMPEDE to help us make similar progress in the treatment of other cancers such as breast and lung.”

This article is adapted from content supplied by Cancer Research UK.

Categories

  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Cancer
  • Strategic objectives: Molecular datasets and disease
  • Locations: London
  • Type: News article, Success story