A new treatment for advanced prostate cancer that homes-in on tumours to deliver a high-energy burst of radiation to cancer cells has shown significant benefits in a large scale clinical trial.
The trial of 921 patients showed that treatment with the radioactive Radium-223 gave men with late-stage prostate cancer an average extra of 15 weeks of life.
The men given the treatment lived for an average of 14.9 months, compared with 11.3 months for men given an inert placebo injection.
An improvement in the patient’s quality of life was also noted.
Due to the trial’s success, scientists decided to stop it early so that patients receiving the placebo could also take the treatment.
The trial was led by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research.
More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK, with 10,000 men dying from their disease.
For some patients, prostrate cancer spreads to their bones and can become treatment resistant. In such circumstances, the current last line of treatment is the chemotherapy drug, docetaxel.
However, many patients are deemed too frail to handle the side effects of docetaxel at this advanced stage of the cancer.
Scientists believe Radium-223 could be used alongside other treatments for prostrate cancer, or it can be used on its own for patients whose condition is too frail for other treatments.
Royal Marsden consultant clinical oncologist Dr Chris Parker, who lead the study, said it paves the way for Radium-223 to be used to extend the lives of more men with advanced prostate cancer.
"We’re excited by the prospects for this ingenious new treatment, which takes advantage of the properties of tumours growing within bone to home in and deliver a highly targeted dose of radiation," Parker said.
"We were delighted to show that Radium-223 allowed many men in our trial to live to see a few extra, precious months. Not only did they live longer, these men had a much better quality of life."
The trial was funded by companies Algeta and Bayer Pharmaceuticals, which own the licence for the therapy with the given brand name of Xofigo.
Full results of the phase III trial was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Image: Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK. Photo: US Government agency National Cancer Institute.