A new treatment that uses two types of radiotherapy to attack advanced prostate cancer could prolong the lives of thousands of men, thanks to funds raised by Movember.
A world-first clinical trial led by a team at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) has shown that the new treatment slows the progression of prostate cancer in men where the disease has spread to their bones.
It works by simultaneously blasting the prostate with radiation from outside the body while using ‘tumour-seeking’ radioactive drugs internally.
Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programs at Movember, says: “We are delighted to have supported this research through the Movember Centre of Excellence.
“For men with advanced disease, these types of treatments might enable them to live longer and enjoy more precious time with their loved ones.
“We very much look forward to seeing this research progress over the coming years.”
Globally, more than 1.3 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year - approximately 3,560 men every day.
Men with advanced prostate cancer are normally treated with hormone therapy, which aims to shrink tumours by limiting the amount of testosterone reaching the cancer cells.
The new approach combines two existing forms of radiotherapy – volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) to target prostate cancer cells in the pelvis, along with a type of internal radiotherapy drug called radium 223 that targets the disease in the bones.
VMAT is delivered externally with a machine called a linear accelerator, in daily hospital visits over two months.
Results of the ADRRAD trial, which tested the combined therapy on 30 patients aged between 40 and 80 over the past four years, were published in leading cancer journal Clinical Cancer Research.
Study lead Professor Joe O’Sullivan says: “This is the first trial of its kind anywhere in the world. We have found that combining these two forms of radiotherapy is safe and we have seen some indications that the approach may prove more effective than existing hormone treatment.
“This trial is a huge global success in the fight against prostate cancer, and is life-changing and life-saving research.”
David Livingstone, 68, from Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, who took part in the clinical trial, says: “In 2016, I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer which had spread to my bones and my lymph nodes. My PSA level was one of the highest ever seen. I was given six months to a year to live.
“I was invited to join the research programme led by Professor O’Sullivan. Over five years on, I have seen my two daughters get married and have been able to spend quality time with my grandchildren.”
The research was conducted by the Academic Prostate Cancer Team at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, Belfast, as part of the Movember Centre of Excellence in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, (FASTMAN CoE).
The research was designed and conducted in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre and was funded by Movember, Prostate Cancer UK and Friends of the Cancer Centre.
Professor O’Sullivan says: “Conducting this trial has been a huge team effort and we are grateful to everyone at The FASTMAN Movember Centre of Excellence.
"We couldn't do this work without the support of our funders, the patients and a whole host of professionals who have made this possible.”