- 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in Britain.
- Experts say findings could ‘change practice’ for men and increase survival
A combination of drugs could “transform” the treatment of aggressive prostate cancer after trials found it reduced recurrence by 60 per cent more than standard treatments.
Patients with an aggressive form of the disease who received enzalutamide along with standard hormone treatment reduced their chances of dying by 58 percent.
Experts said the findings could be “practice-changing” for men, increasing survival rates and improving quality of life.
About a third of men who undergo surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer will see it return, often aggressively.
They are usually treated with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) or hormone therapy, which reduces the production of the male sex hormone testosterone.
Enzalutamide (pronounced en-zal-loo-tah-my-de) also known by its brand name Xtandi (pronounced ex-tan-dee), pictured, could boost survival rates, experts say.
Testosterone helps prostate cancer cells grow and spread, and hormone therapy effectively reduces the growth-stimulating effects.
But ADT doesn’t completely eliminate testosterone, which means the cancer can still grow and can also have side effects, such as erection problems and loss of libido.
In this study of 1,068 prostate cancer patients from 17 countries, researchers wanted to test whether enzalutamide could improve changes in survival by slowing the spread.
One-third of the men received enzalutamide alone, which works by stopping testosterone from stimulating the growth of cancer cells.
Another group was given the daily tablet along with ADT and the remaining men were given ADT alone, which is the current standard treatment.
The trials found that men treated with enzalutamide alone were 37 percent less likely to die after five years than those receiving ADT alone.
But this figure jumped to 58 percent when enzalutamide was combined with ADT, according to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said, “In the study, these two new options improved metastasis-free survival while preserving quality of life.”
“If these treatments are approved… our results will be practice-changing.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, with 52,000 diagnosed with the disease in Britain each year.
The Mail has been campaigning for decades to improve prognosis and treatments to bring the disease into line with breast cancer.
Until now, Pfizer’s drug had been used for other types of prostate cancer, but this very aggressive strain had no effective treatments.
Amy Rylance, head of care improvement at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This research is exciting because it shows that adding enzalutamide to standard treatment for these men more than halves the risk of their disease spreading or causing them to die. “.
“For men with aggressive prostate cancer, time is of the essence, so we hope that men in the UK will have access to this new combination of treatments as quickly as possible.”
Oliver Kemp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer Research, said: “Too many men suffer from recurrent prostate cancer and existing treatments can cause serious side effects.
“That’s why the results of this trial are really encouraging and could open up new options for patients.
“Improving available treatments is crucial, but so is early diagnosis, so we encourage any man with concerns to speak to their doctor and get a check-up.”
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does he kill?
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – die from the disease in Britain, compared with around 11,400 women who die from breast cancer.
This means that prostate cancer is second only to lung and bowel cancer in terms of how many people it kills in Britain.
In the United States, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.
Despite this, it receives less than half of the funding for breast cancer research and treatments for the disease are at least a decade behind schedule.
How many men are diagnosed annually?
Every year, more than 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – more than 140 every day.
How fast does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs of someone having it for many years, depending on the National Health Service.
If the cancer is in an early stage and is not causing symptoms, a “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” policy may be adopted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.
But if it is diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are discouraged from seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects of treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Testing for prostate cancer is confusing, and precise tools are just beginning to emerge.
There is no national prostate screening program because the tests have been too inaccurate for years.
Doctors have difficulty distinguishing between aggressive and less serious tumors, making it difficult to decide 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 not reliable. Patients who obtain a positive result usually undergo a biopsy, which is also not foolproof.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity, and lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with any concerns can speak to the specialist nurses at Prostate Cancer UK on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecancer.org