Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have revealed that a shorter course of prostate cancer radiotherapy is as effective as the current National Health Service (NHS) standard treatment.
The 14-year trial has concluded that a 20-dose course of a modern type of radiotherapy over the current NHS standard 37-dose course would be more convenient for patients and could help the NHS save tens of millions of pounds every year.
The trial followed more than 3,200 men being treated for prostate cancer between 2002 and 2011 at more than 70 research centres across the UK.
During the study, standard 37 doses of 2 Grays per day was compared with two other regimes, one consisting of 19 doses of 3 Gray per day, and the other 20 doses of 3 Gray per day.
The Institute of Cancer Research, Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trials and statistics unit deputy director and study co-leader Dr Emma Hall said: "Our trial showed this modern radiotherapy is as effective when used over 20 days as over 37 days, the present standard regime.
"Our results also show that using state-of-the art radiotherapy methods significantly reduces the treatment side effects that matter to patients.
"We already know many centres have already switched to the new regime, and we hope it will soon become the new standard of care for prostate cancer treatment on the NHS."
The trial also revealed that treatment with fewer, higher doses of intensity-modulated radiotherapy resulted in less than half the rate of side-effects related to the older conformal radiotherapy.
The new treatment for prostate cancer is capable of saving 17 hospital trips and complex radiotherapy treatments for each patient, thereby leading to a reduction of more than 150,000 visits every year nationwide.
The study has been funded by the Cancer Research UK.
Image: Intensity-modulated radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer. Photo: courtesy of Jan Chlebik / the ICR.