Extending men's lives with radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer
Every year 7,000 men are diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. For years, researchers have been trying to find out whether radiotherapy targeted at the prostate could still benefit men, even after the cancer had spread elsewhere in the body. Researchers leading the large multi-arm clinical trial, STAMPEDE, decided to tackle this very question, by adding radiotherapy to the prostate (even if the cancer has spread) as a new arm in their trial.
One group of men were given the standard of care which was hormone therapy, and chemotherapy (docetaxel). A second group of men were given the same treatment as the first group with the addition of radiotherapy to their prostate.
After 3 years of following up there was no difference in how long men lived after the two different treatments. Whether men were treated with the standard of care or with standard of care with radiotherapy they lived for the same amount of time. On the surface this appeared to be a negative trial showing that treating the cancer in the prostate in these men did not improve survival once the cancer had spread. However, through your support, Prostate Cancer UK had funded a team at the Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence to analyse the results in more detail. That team analysed bone scans taken from the men who participated in the trial. In total they collected and analysed over 7,000 scans from 140 hospitals.
The team showed that for men whose prostate cancer had spread to only a few places (4 or fewer), having radiotherapy gave them significant benefit compared to standard of care alone.
After 3 years 81% of men whose cancer had spread to 4 or fewer places and treated with radiotherapy were still alive, compared to 73% of men who were treated with the standard of care, meaning an extra 8 out of 100 men were alive after 3 years when given radiotherapy.
“It’s a special feeling when your team discover something new that makes a difference. Thousands of patients around the world now have treatment which benefits them, which they would otherwise not have had.”
When Kevin Webber was first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2014 he was given just two years to live. He was initially given radiotherapy and since then has continued to defy expectations, all while raising close to a million pounds for Prostate Cancer UK while taking on numerous epic endurance events across the globe, and influencing others to support too.
I’m so glad I had the radiotherapy, because I now know that for men in my situation, where the cancer had spread, but not to too many sites, it’s a fantastic thing to do. So for me, research like this is absolutely amazing, because that’s how we find out about these new treatments. And along with the work behind the scenes to get these made available to men, that can make such a big difference. It’s why I want to keep on raising money so that these brilliant researchers can keep doing what they do best, and saving men’s lives.
From research idea to access for all
Researchers wanted to know if men whose prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate would still benefit from radiotherapy given to the cancer still within the prostate, or if giving radiotherapy at this stage (once cancer has spread) is too late. This was part of a large trial called STAMPEDE.
A team of researchers based at the Manchester-Belfast Movember Centre of Excellence analysed images of bone scans from men treated with radiotherapy. The team looked to see if there was a link between the number of sites the cancer had spread to, with the benefit given with the radiotherapy treatment.
The team showed that men whose cancer had spread to 4 or fewer places did benefit from radiotherapy to the prostate-they lived longer than men who hadn't been given radiotherapy.
Thanks to the image analysis performed by our researchers a simple bone scan, used in every hospital, can be used to predict a positive response to radiotherapy to the prostate.
Approved for use
A second team funded by Prostate Cancer UK analysed data from the STAMPEDE trial and a second large European trial that also looked at radiotherapy once the prostate cancer has spread. This independent analysis concluded that radiotherapy should be considered for men whose cancer has spread to 4 or fewer places.
Access for all
Work done through these two Prostate Cancer UK grants provided the evidence NICE the needed to change clinical guidelines. Not only is this now standard clinical practice in the UK, this analysis has also changed clinical practice in United States of America and Europe. Because of your support, our funded researchers have extended the lives of men with prostate cancer across the world.
We’ve continued to fund projects to improve upon the way radiotherapy treatment is given to cure more men and do less harm. We’ve also funded projects that use smarter data to understand which men will benefit most from radiotherapy.
A test to help men choose between surgery and radiotherapyFind out more
Identifying factors that can predict men’s response to radiotherapyFind out more
A clinical trial to test a rapid form of radiotherapyFind out more
With your help we can beat prostate cancer, together
With your continued support you can help us cure more men with less harm. Take action today and help us work towards a future where men's lives aren't limited by prostate cancer