A NEW treatment for prostate cancer that has already saved about 240 lives in Australia is likely to be adopted globally, Hunter-based researcher, Professor Jim Denham, says.
The new treatment regime, trialled over 10 years in men with advanced localised prostate cancer, reduced the spread of the cancer by 40 per cent, and the number of deaths by 30 per cent.
Researchers estimate the research saved about 240 lives over the course of the trial. The study, led by Hunter radiation oncologist Professor Denham, found 18 months of testosterone-suppression therapy, coupled with radiotherapy, to be more effective than the current standard of care of six months. The men who received the extra 12 months of hormone therapy did not experience further side effects.
“The first trial we ran in prostate cancer was in the days when people just had radiotherapy by itself,” he said. “The bottom line was that six months of hormones before radiotherapy, compared to just radiotherapy, was spectacularly good, and it reduced the chances of the cancer spreading, and of men dying of prostate cancer.
“We felt like we had made a good start, but a few years later we thought, can we do any better? And that is what the RADAR trial is all about.
“The prostate, and prostate cancer, grows on testosterone, so if you can reduce it to very low levels with this treatment, billions of cancer cells die. It is very useful for stopping the spread of the cancer around the body, and that is what has happened.”
The 1071 men from Australia and New Zealand involved in the TROG Cancer Research study were monitored for 10 years.
“There are a total of 17,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer throughout Australia each year – about 1000 in the Hunter Region,” he said.
“About 6000-7000 of these men will be diagnosed with these locally advanced prostate cancers – bulky cancers that will spread across the body and will kill if no treatment is given, usually within three-to-five years. Cutting the death rate by 30 per cent is a big advantage.”
The results from the longitudinal RADAR study have been published in The Lancet Oncology journal.
“We’re expecting this regime will take off all around the world because it is effective, and not a very toxic treatment,” Professor Denham said. “In American studies they were using 24 or 28 months of anti-testosterone treatment, and a French study used 36 months. To have the same benefits for less in the way of side effects is terrific.”
There were 130 people from the Hunter involved in the trial, including Colin Sandeman of Kotara, who said he might not be alive today had it not been for this “important research”.
"My brother had it, my father had it, my uncle and my cousin have all had prostate cancer,” he said.
“This is a really important result.
“This research, and the outcome of the research, is a really good result for men’s health.
“It has kept me healthy. I was happy to be involved."