Early use of prostate cancer drug improves survival chances

Early use of hormone drug improves survival chances of men with aggressive prostate cancer and can cut deaths from the disease by almost a third

  • Taking enzalutamide after diagnosis slashes risk of dying within three years 
  • Treatment is available on the NHS for advanced prostate cancer suffers
  • New study found giving the £33,000-a-year drug at the same time as the injections slowed tumour progression  

Early use of an advanced hormone drug dramatically improves the survival chances of men with aggressive prostate cancer, a study has found.

Taking enzalutamide soon after diagnosis slashes the risk of dying within three years, according to data presented yesterday at the world’s biggest cancer conference.

The treatment – taken as four daily pills – is already available on the NHS for men with advanced prostate cancer, but only after they have stopped responding to standard hormone injections.

The new study found giving the £33,000-a-year drug at the same time as the injections – rather than waiting for them to fail – slowed tumour progression and cut death rates by almost a third.

Taking enzalutamide soon after diagnosis slashes the risk of dying within three years, according to data presented yesterday at the world’s biggest cancer conference. Stock picture

Up to 10,000 men with terminal cancer could benefit from early access to the treatment in the UK each year. It could also delay the need to endure chemotherapy.

Presenting the data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, Professor Ian Davis from Monash University in Australia, said: ‘The survival benefit is substantially greater giving it early, than it is further down the track. You get much greater bang for your buck.’

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 1,125 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Researchers found the chance of dying within three years was 20 per cent if given enzalutamide alongside standard treatment.

But for those only given standard treatment the risk of death was 28 per cent.

Enzalutamide works by stopping testosterone – which drives cancer growth – from being absorbed by tumours. It is sold by Astellas under the brand name Xtandi.

The new study found giving the £33,000-a-year drug at the same time as the injections – rather than waiting for them to fail – slowed tumour progression and cut death rates by almost a third. Stock picture

Dr Matthew Hobbs of Prostate Cancer UK said: ‘This is a positive trial that demonstrates the benefit of giving enzalutamide upfront to men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

‘Enzalutamide is now the third treatment option in four years shown to have a substantial impact on life expectancy when used alongside hormone treatment.

‘Some men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer cannot have chemotherapy, we want to see another treatment option made available to them.’

Prostate cancer affects around 47,000 men a year in the UK – and kills 11,800. 

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