Cancer trial shows treating the prostate with radiotherapy improves survival

Date:
29 October 2018

Treating the prostate with radiotherapy alongside standard treatment led to a 11 per cent increase in survival for some men with advanced prostate cancer, according to a study led by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Chris Parker

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, today (Sunday).

Previously, it was unclear if there was any benefit of 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 Cancer Research UK-funded STAMPEDE trial 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, based at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London, 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.

Lead researcher Dr Chris Parker, Consultant Clinical Oncologist 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.”

Kevin Webber, age 53, although not part of the trial, received radiotherapy to the prostate as part of his treatment for advanced prostate cancer at The Royal Marsden. He said: “I discovered I had prostate cancer in November 2014 and was given a prognosis of as little as two years. My tumour had spread to lymph glands in my abdomen and chest, so I didn’t think radiotherapy was an option for me until Dr Chris Parker raised the possibility of it.

“Now, nearly four years on from my diagnosis, I’m still incurable - but have been and currently remain fit enough to have just completed my sixth multi day ultra-marathon of 2018. Groundbreaking studies like STAMPEDE give patients hope, and that’s priceless when you have advanced cancer.”

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “This is a monumental finding that could help thousands of men worldwide. STAMPEDE is making great strides in finding new ways to treat prostate cancer with previous results from the trial already changing clinical practice – data released previously has led to docetaxel chemotherapy now being part of the standard of care for many men with prostate cancer.

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.”