In a study carried out by Professor Nicholas James and his team at the University of Birmingham – two existing therapies have been combined and the results showed promise in treating patients with prostate cancer. On top of the standard hormone therapy, a drug called abiraterone was introduced together in the trial. As a result, patients with advanced, high-risk prostate cancer stood a chance of having a 37% life extension.

Abiraterone, also known as zytiga, is a hormone therapy and is usually administered on patients whose cancer has stopped responding to the standard hormone therapy. Unlike chemotherapy where cancerous cells are killed, abiraterone works by stopping the testosterone from reaching the prostate gland to block the tumour’s growth.

James claimed, "These are the most powerful results I've seen from a prostate cancer trial – it's a once-in-a-career feeling. This is one of the biggest reductions in death I've seen in any clinical trial for adult cancers."

The trial

The trial was carried out on almost 2,000 prostate cancer patients who were about to start long-term hormone therapy. Half of the participants were given just hormone therapy; while the other half were given the standard hormone therapy and the additional arbiraterone. Results showed that patients who received both therapies were less likely to die than patients who received the sole standard therapy.

Adding to the success, James added, “Abiraterone not only prolonged life, but also lowered the chance of relapse by 70% and reduced the chance of serious bone complications by 50%.”

More than 20,000 patients who are diagnosed with the disease every year could be of benefit from these new findings. As it is, more than 11,000 out of the 46,500 men diagnosed die from the disease in the UK. In the US, more than 27,000 patients suffer the same fate as it is the most common cancer in men.

More patients to benefit from treatment

James added, "Abiraterone is already used to treat some men whose disease has spread but our results show many more could benefit."

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive concurred, "These results could transform the treatment of prostate cancer. Abiraterone can clearly help many more prostate cancer patients than was first thought." MIMS

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