Radiotherapy and hormone treatment can halve early death rates among high-risk prostate cancer patients, according to trial reports published in The Lancet.
At present, once a tumour has broken out into surrounding tissues, doctors adopt a strategy of containment rather than cure. Hormone therapy that stops tumours being fuelled by testosterone is commonly used.
The new findings show that survival can be dramatically improved if radiotherapy is employed as well, although it causes slightly more frequent side-effects, such as urinary incontinence and impotence.
In a ten-year study of men recruited from 47 centres in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, 23.9% of the hormone treatment-only group died compared with 11.9% of the combination treatment group.
Cancer recurrence, defined by rising levels of the blood marker prostate specific antigen (PSA), was nearly three times higher among patients only given hormone therapy.
The authors, led by Professor Anders Widmark, from Umea University in Sweden, concluded: "The present study indicates a significant superiority of the endocrine plus radiotherapy treatment compared with endocrine treatment alone in patients with locally advanced prostate cancer."
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