BLOG: Our CEO, Angela Culhane, gives her thoughts on what new research could mean for treating prostate cancer and how Prostate Cancer UK is working to make the most of it.

6 Jun 2017

There have just been two days of incredible prostate cancer clinical trial results from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Conference in Chicago. This is definitely going to be a good step forward in the fight against prostate cancer, but what does it mean for men and what is Prostate Cancer UK doing to make sure the benefit is seen and felt in the UK?

There were two sets of trial results: STAMPEDE and Latitude. The UK-led STAMPEDE trial showed that giving abiraterone to men with newly diagnosed locally advanced prostate cancer or whose cancer had already spread, significantly improved survival and a doubled the time before disease progression. The Latitude trial focused only on men with prostate cancer that has spread, but showed similarly positive results.

Uncertainty about which men will benefit

While these results indicate a step forward in the way prostate cancer can be treated, we’re not yet able to know for sure which men will benefit from them. Why? Because last year’s STAMPEDE trial results showed giving the chemotherapy drug docetaxel at the same time as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) helped men survive for an average of 15 months longer than ADT alone.

As docetaxel and abiraterone have not been compared side-by-side, we can't know yet which is better. As we never want any man to have a treatment which offers game-changing results on the surface but then doesn’t work, we need a way to find out if they will work differently in different men, or if they might work even better together.

There is already ongoing research into this, such as the PEACE-1 trial, and the STAMPEDE researchers are analysing the statistics from their trials to better understand the differences between the two treatments.

Tackling the barriers to this new treatment

What we can say is that abiraterone could be an important treatment option for men whose prostate cancer has spread, but who are unable to have chemotherapy (docetaxel). When the STAMPEDE trial hit the news our Director of Research, Dr Iain Frame, said that we would "be working with all relevant bodies to make sure this treatment becomes an option available for these men via the NHS." What do we mean by this?

We expect there to be some barriers which we will need to break through:

  • we will investigate whether the European Medicines Agency can speed through the license needed for abiraterone to be used in the UK in this way
  • we will call for the fast-track appraisal of abiraterone by both NICE and the SMC
  • we will get the manufacturer and NHS commissioners across the UK around the price negotiating table without delay.

Investing in precision medicine research

At the same time as this access related work, we will continue to invest in the research that makes sure, in the future, men with prostate cancer are receiving the treatments that will have the most benefit for them at the right time. We are already developing a test to see which men will benefit from abiraterone, as we know that a third of men do not respond to the drug after ADT. This is part of a large effort towards precision medicine, where each man gets a treatment based on the genetic makeup of his cancer. We are committing £1.4 million to a grant to support this important area of research.

The vision is for a personalised approach to treatment, where men get the treatments which will work for them and don’t have to waste time or suffer side effects unnecessarily. Great treatments, used in the right way, will dramatically improve survival for all men with prostate cancer.

In summary, these trial results are great news and Prostate Cancer UK is pushing to get the benefits to men as soon as possible. This involves being the champion for access to the drugs, monitoring ongoing clinical trials comparing combinations of treatments and identifying which drugs are best for which men by funding precision medicine research. Another step closer to taming prostate cancer within ten years.

comments powered by Disqus