In a groundbreaking discovery, a major trial has revealed that men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer can safely receive significantly reduced radiotherapy doses. Instead of the usual 20 or more doses, only five higher doses are needed, effectively reducing treatment intensity by three-quarters.
This international trial involved nearly 900 men with medium-risk prostate cancer that had not spread beyond the prostate. Lead researcher Prof Nicholas van As from the Royal Marsden Hospital hailed the results as “outstanding” and “fantastic” for patients.
Prostate Cancer UK highlighted the potential to save both time and money for the NHS while ensuring optimal patient outcomes. The breakthrough means that thousands of men can receive larger doses of radiotherapy, also known as multi-beam radiotherapy, during each hospital visit while requiring fewer overall sessions.
The PACE-B trial’s findings revealed that after five years, 96% of men who received just five doses of multi-beam radiotherapy were cancer-free, compared to 95% of those who underwent at least 20 doses of standard radiotherapy. Side effects, such as increased urination frequency, were minimal in both groups.
These promising results are set to be presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology (Astro) conference in San Diego.
Prof van As anticipates that these findings will lead to significant changes in the delivery of radiotherapy. The lower-dose treatment is expected to be rapidly adopted by the NHS, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of radiotherapy doses.
An estimated 8,000 men per year in the UK with intermediate-risk prostate cancer that has not spread could benefit from this approach, receiving their treatment within a week instead of over a month. In contrast, standard treatment in the UK involves 20 doses, while some other countries, like the US, employ up to 40 doses.
Crucially, none of the 874 men in the trial received hormone therapy to block testosterone, which is known to drive prostate cancer and has various side effects. This omission is significant because hormone therapy can result in severe tiredness, hot flushes, and decreased libido.
Simon Grieveson, assistant director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, lauded the effectiveness of this new multi-beam therapy and its potential to expedite treatment while reducing hospital visits.
Alistair Kennedy-Rose, who participated in the trial, urged other men to undergo prostate cancer screening. He emphasized the importance of routine PSA tests for men over 50, adding that early detection can lead to easier treatment with fewer side effects, as he personally experienced.