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Published: 2008-12-16

Combination of radiotherapy and hormone treatment halves prostate cancer deaths

NEWS A unique study from Sweden and Norway - published in the British medical journal The Lancet - has found that a combination of long-term hormone treatment and radiation can double survival rates for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

In patients with locally advanced or high-risk prostate cancer, combining radiotherapy with the conventional endocrine (hormone) treatment halves mortality. Thus endocrine treatment plus radiotherapy should be the new standard. These are the conclusions of authors on an Article published online and in an upcoming edition of The Lancet, co-written by Professor Anders Widmark from the Department of Radiation Sciences and Oncology at Umeå University. He is also Chief Physican at Norrlands University Hospital, in Umeå.

Professor Anders Widmark, who led the study said: “"The study will change practice in the treatment of locally advanced or local aggressive prostate cancer. These patients should be offered the addition of local radiation treatment.”

In this phase 3 randomised trial, over 800 men with locally advanced prostate cancer were randomly assigned to receive either the drug flutamide (Eulexin), to block androgens (male hormones), or hormone therapy along with radiotherapy. Androgens are believed to encourage the spread of prostate cancer, so blocking their effect is a common prostate cancer treatment.

Over an average follow-up of nearly eight years, 79 men who received hormone treatment alone died, compared with 37 men who received hormone treatment plus radiation, Professor Widmark's group found.

After ten years, 23.9% of the men in the hormone therapy-only group had died from prostate cancer compared with 11.9% of the men in the combined treatment group. Furthermore, the researchers found that death from any cause was higher in the hormone therapy-only group, (39.4%) than in the combined treatment group (29.6%).

Moreover, fewer men in the combined treatment group saw a return of their cancer (26%) than did men in the hormone-only group (75%). The addition of local treatment with radiotherapy improves survival, Widmark concluded. "These patients are highly curable -- only 10 per cent will die of prostate cancer within 10 years," he said. "They should not give up."

The study led by Professor Anders Widmark is published in the December 16 online edition of The Lancet (http://www.lancet.com).

For more information contact:Professor Anders Widmark, Department of Radiation Sciences, OncologyUmeå University, Sweden Phone: +46 (0)70 584 43 30
E-mail: Anders.Widmark@onkologi.umu.se