Prostate cancer drugs that halve risk of dying: New hope for patients thanks to new treatment


Thousands of men could live longer with prostate cancer after taking a new drug combination.

Around 10,000 men a year in the UK are estimated to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which is normally treated with hormone therapy and radiotherapy.

A study found also giving them a drug called abiraterone halves their risk of dying from the cancer over six years.

Abiraterone was denied to men with more advanced prostate cancer in January, after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which approves drugs, ruled it was not cost-effective and should not be offered routinely.

The expensive daily tablets cost £35,500 a year privately, although how much the NHS pays is not known.

However the new British-led trial in a different group of men, whose prostate cancer had not spread, found abiraterone, taken for just two years, greatly improved their chances of survival.

Experts hope the drug could be made available on the NHS ‘soon’ following the results. 

Thousands of men could live longer with prostate cancer after taking a new drug combination. Around 10,000 men a year in the UK are estimated to have an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which is normally treated with hormone therapy and radiotherapy

Researchers tracked 988 men given hormone therapy, with most of them getting it alongside radiotherapy, which is the usual treatment.

They compared them with 986 men receiving the usual treatment, plus abiraterone. 

Over six years, men given the combination of drugs including abiraterone were 51 per cent less likely to die than those on the normal treatment.

Only 18 per cent of them had seen the cancer spread through their body, compared with 31 per cent of those not given the combination. 

The study’s co-author Professor Gerhardt Attard, from University College London, said: ‘Based on these results, all men with high-risk non-metastatic prostate cancer should be considered for two years of abiraterone.’

Another author, Nick James, professor of prostate and bladder cancer research at the Institute of Cancer Research and a consultant clinical oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘The results were spectacular – that is really the only word for it.

‘We are in active discussions with NHS England about how these findings can be implemented.’

The Mail has spent 20 years campaigning to improve prostate treatment. Men with aggressive types typically get a drug to starve tumours of the male sex hormones, like testosterone, which fuel them

The Mail has spent 20 years campaigning to improve prostate treatment. Men with aggressive types typically get a drug to starve tumours of the male sex hormones, like testosterone, which fuel them

The Mail has spent 20 years campaigning to improve prostate treatment. Men with aggressive types typically get a drug to starve tumours of the male sex hormones, like testosterone, which fuel them. 

But despite the drug blocking production of these hormones, the cancer usually comes back.

Abiraterone prevents this by stopping cancer cells making their own male sex hormones, or sourcing them from elsewhere, so the cells are less likely to grow into larger tumours and spread. 

The new trial results, funded by Cancer Research UK and presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress, show 15 per cent of men given the usual treatment died within six years. 

That was around double the seven per cent who died in the same period after getting the combination. 

Among those in the abiraterone group, 527 men also received enzalutamide – a drug which has a similar effect. However, there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether this improves outcomes.

Another study presented at the congress found adding both abiraterone and the chemotherapy drug docetaxel to hormone therapy meant men were 25 per cent less likely to die over an average of 4.4 years. 

Meanwhile, prostate patients could be cured within a week, rather than a month, in a new radiotherapy trial. 

Doctors at the Royal Marsden hospital in London will treat the first patient this week in a study to determine if radiotherapy is safe to have in two large doses. It would spare men repeat visits to hospital.

Medication ‘may add a year to life’

Breast cancer patients could survive a year longer using a drug available on the NHS.

A clinical trial has tested ribociclib, also known as Kisqali, in 686 post-menopausal women with a form of the disease called hormone receptor positive, HER2 negative advanced breast cancer.

Those just given a hormone pill called letrozole survived for just over four years, or 51.4 months on average.

Those given it with ribociclib lived for around a year longer – a total of 63.9 months.

The women in the study, led by the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas, were given the drugs as the first treatment after their cancer had spread or come back.

Ribociclib stops specific proteins in cancer cells from growing and multiplying.

The findings were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress. Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, from charity Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘This research brings women with secondary breast cancer new hope of precious extra time with loved ones.’

n A combination of two inhibitor drugs can stop some ovarian cancer tumours from growing for an average of 23 months, researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research found.

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