How prostate cancer could be cured in just FIVE DAYS: Radiotherapy breakthrough as doctors trial high doses that clear tumours much quicker
- Researchers gave five stronger blasts of radiation to patients over two weeks
- Found it caused no more side effects than current eight-week standard therapy
- It could save patients months of gruelling treatments by condensing care
Prostate cancer patients are set to benefit from a radical new approach to radiotherapy which cuts the length of treatment from eight weeks to five days.
Traditionally, radiotherapy is given over 39 days – requiring men to go to hospital every weekday for nearly two months.
But doctors have conducted a trial that delivers far more powerful beams of precisely targeted radiation in only five sessions.
A patient taking part in the trial is treated with radiotherapy using the CyberKnife machine
Researchers delivered five stronger blasts of radiation to patients over a two- week period was just as safe as standard therapy over two months. Pictured: Lead author Dr Nick Van As
The early results of the study, published yesterday in the Lancet medical journal, found that it was ‘promising’ in curing prostate cancer and that the side effects were no worse than with the current treatment.
The trial involving 847 men with prostate cancer was carried out by experts at The Royal Marsden Hospital and The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
STEPHEN FRY BACKS £2M BOOST FOR PROSTATE CANCER
An extra £2 million of research funding was announced today by the charity Prostate Cancer Research Centre (PCRC).
Stephen Fry, who revealed last year he was suffering from the disease, welcomed the news.
The actor, 61, who had his prostate removed last year and is now cancer free, supported the charity last year through The Stephen and Martin Appeal, launched on BBC Radio 4.
Stephen Fry, 61, is now cancer-free
Even though the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK has shot up by 41 per cent since the early 1990s, money being spent on prostate cancer research is decreasing.
Between 2016/17 and 2017/18 there was a 13.5 per cent decrease in the amount of money spent on prostate cancer research in the UK, according to figures from the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI)
Using the new funds, PCRC has awarded seven new grants, to researchers based in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Newcastle, Aberdeen, and Norwich
The money will go towards finding a cure or better treatments.
Around half of the men were given the current standard radiotherapy of 39 treatments over eight weeks or 20 doses over four weeks. The others received five doses of the higher-strength radiation – called SBRT – over one or two weeks.
Scientists will now monitor the men for five years to see whether the five-day course is as effective at defeating prostate cancer as the longer treatment.
Study author Dr Douglas Brand, from The Institute of Cancer Research, said: ‘The new results from our clinical trial have shown that a much shorter course of higher-dose radiotherapy does not increase short-term side effects compared with the current standard of care. If the data on longer-term side effects and efficacy are also positive, we expect our trial could be practice-changing.
‘This would enable us to deliver curative treatment over fewer days, meaning that men would get the same benefit from their radiotherapy while having to spend less time in hospital.’
The Daily Mail is campaigning for an urgent improvement in prostate cancer treatments and diagnosis, which lag years behind other diseases such as breast cancer.
Alfred, 84, one of the patients to have the new treatment, said: ‘I only had to go into The Royal Marsden five times over two weeks.
‘I was made very comfortable and overall – not something I’d usually associate with cancer treatment – it was a breeze. I didn’t have many symptoms afterwards and was able to get back to my life. In the six years since, I’ve not had to have any further treatment.’
Some 15,000 men with prostate cancer receive radiotherapy every year, nearly a third of the 47,000 diagnosed in Britain annually.
The treatment is a highly effective way to tackle the disease, particularly if it is given at an early stage, when it permanently eradicates 60 per cent of tumours. But it can involve long-term side effects, including impotence, bowel problems and even bladder cancer.
The findings were published in the journal The Lancet Oncology.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
Prostate cancer is the growth of tumours in the prostate gland.
Only men have a prostate, which is a walnut-sized gland between the rectum and the penis which creates a fluid to be mixed with sperm to create semen.
How many people does it kill?
More than 11,800 men a year - or one every 45 minutes - are now killed by prostate cancer in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women dying of breast cancer.
It means prostate cancer is behind only lung and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain. In the US, the disease kills 26,000 each year.
How quickly does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS.
If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of 'watchful waiting' or 'active surveillance' may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.
But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
There is no national prostate screening programme as for years the tests have been too inaccurate.
Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof.
Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with any concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK's specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org.