Prostate cancer death rates cut by radiotherapy

Deaths from prostate cancer can be cut by giving men radiation treatment as well as hormonal therapy, research has shown.

A trial involving 1,200 men with locally advanced cancers found that additional radiotherapy led to 43 per cent fewer deaths after seven years.

All the men received standard hormone therapy, which uses drugs to prevent testosterone fuelling the cancer.

Half the participants were also given radiation treatment.

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Early results showed that 79 per cent of men who had hormone therapy alone were alive seven years later compared with 90 per cent who received radiotherapy and hormone drugs.

Hormone treatments can work well but some men stop responding to them after a few years.

Trial leader Professor Malcom Mason, from the University of Cardiff in Wales, said: "These results clearly show radiotherapy increases survival for men with this type of prostate cancer. We estimate around 40 per cent of men like those in the trial are given radiotherapy in the UK, and hope that more will now be offered this important option."

The men who received radiotherapy were treated five days a week for between six or seven weeks as outpatients.

Initial side effects were mild, with some men suffering discomfort, feeling the need to urinate frequently, or experiencing diarrhoea.

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."