Quickly identifying which treatments work best

What you need to know

  • For many years, treatments for advanced prostate cancer remained unchanged. Now, following the news that combining docetaxel with standard hormone therapy can extend men's lives, more trials are searching for treatments that could do the same. 
  • We're funding Professor Jane Tierney to take data from these existing trials, and perform complex analysis to predict their outcomes before they report. She'll also develop tools that will speed up clinical trials in the future. 
  • The project has the potential to help several new treatments reach men faster, and could mean the results from any future trial come in to play sooner. 

For many years hormone therapy alone has been the standard treatment for men with prostate cancer that had spread outside the prostate, but is still sensitive to hormones. Professor Tierney’s team recently analysed data from clinical trials and showed that adding docetaxel or abiraterone to hormone therapy improves survival, in other words helps men to live longer.

Scooping up data from existing trials 

Many more clinical trials are looking at other promising treatments. For each new treatment, Professor Tierney’s team will quickly and reliably review trial results to find if they are effective. For example, they will look at whether adding enzalutamide to hormone therapy improves survival. They will also then collect anonymised individual patient data from these trials. This much more detailed data will allow the researchers to ask and answer additional questions about the effects of all current treatments.

For example, they will look in depth at the data from trials that added docetaxel or abiraterone to hormone therapy to see if any patients benefit more or less from these treatments. This means that in the future men will be able to make the most appropriate treatment decisions for them.

Finding the best options for men, faster

In cases where more than one treatment is beneficial, for example early docetaxel and early abiraterone, they will also be able use the data to see if one or other drug is better overall. This will be important information for doctors trying to choose which treatment to prescribe to their patients. It will also help policy makers decide which drugs to make available on the NHS and when.

Accelerating future treatment developments

Finally, the researchers will also collect anonymised individual patient level from older trials. These data will be used to find out if early measurements of prostate cancer control can predict later survival. If they can do this very reliably, these early measurements can be used instead of overall survival to work out which treatments are effective. This would allow future trials to be shorter by many years, so that new treatments could reach men safely, but more quickly than is currently possible.

An open source database for researchers across the world 

The trial database will be maintained into the future and made widely available, with new trials added to keep it up to date. This means that earlier conclusions can be checked and improved upon, and new questions about advanced prostate cancer and its treatments tackled. They will collaborate with prostate cancer researchers around the world and involve men with prostate cancer throughout. All involved can learn from the data and each other, and work together to plan the most important new trials in advanced prostate cancer.

Find out more 

If you'd like to learn more about Dr Tierney's study, you can visit the project website

Grant information

Reference - RIA16-ST2-020 
Researcher - 
Professor Jayne Tierney 
Institution – University College London 
Award - £465,180.00