Australian-New Zealand hormone therapy trial good news for prostate cancer patients

Results of a major trial of hormone therapy on men with locally advanced prostate cancer announced today were a significant development and would be welcomed by patients and oncologists world-wide, according to The Cancer Council Australia.

The Cancer Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Alan Coates, said the trial involving Australian and New Zealand patients was the largest of its type in the world and would help set the standard for treatment of locally advanced prostate cancer.

Run by the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group, the trial tested a combination of hormone therapy and radiotherapy on 800 volunteers from Australia and New Zealand with inoperable prostate cancer.

“Using this combination of therapies resulted in a 60 per cent decline in the return of prostate cancer after radiotherapy, a 33 per cent reduction in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body and a 40 per cent reduction in deaths,” Professor Coates said.

“These are major findings which will add substantially to the evidence base for treatment of men with this disease. The reduction in spread of the disease is particularly important, as metastases can cause greater patient suffering, potential hospitalisation and make treatment far more complicated and costly.”

According to Professor Coates the benefits of hormone therapy have been recognised since the late 1980s, but the challenge has been to find the right combination to work effectively with radiotherapy. “Using goserelin and flutamide over a six month period prior to and during radiotherapy has proven to be highly effective,” he said. “Being able to combine these hormone therapies in conjunction with radiotherapy over a relatively short period provides an effective treatment with potentially fewer side-effects.”

Professor Coates said there had been considerable debate about treatment regimes for locally advanced prostate cancer. “There has been a relative lack of clinical trial evidence in prostate cancer therapy, in contrast to breast cancer. This trial provides welcome evidence that will bring greater certainty for both patients and the medical community.”

Professor Coates encouraged men with prostate cancer and their GPs to consider participation in a new trial by the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group called RADAR, which will look at whether there is benefit in using another hormone therapy, leuprolide, after radiotherapy as well as before it. It will also investigate for the first time whether a new treatment, zoledronic acid, can strengthen bones and delay progression of secondary bone cancers.

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