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Prostate cancer experts' trial to prolong lives with combination of therapies

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 26/02/2016

Professor Joe O’Sullivan is leading the trial
Professor Joe O’Sullivan is leading the trial

A major trial of a possible new life-saving treatment for prostate cancer is being led by experts in Northern Ireland.

Researchers at Queen's University, in partnership with the Belfast Trust, are spearheading the potentially ground-breaking trial of a new combination of cancer therapies for patients with advanced prostate cancer, with the hope of prolonging their lives.

Almost 8,500 men here are living with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, with around three new cases diagnosed every day. Around 250 die each year.

It is hoped that combining two forms of radiotherapy will be more effective than existing hormone treatment in targeting cancerous cells.

Over the next 18 months, 30 patients will participate in the trial aimed at men with advanced prostate cancer, where the cancer has spread to the bones. This accounts for around 10% of prostate cancer patients.

The two radiotherapies involved are volumetric modulated arc therapy, which targets prostate cancer cells in the pelvis, and Radium 223, which attacks the disease in the bones.

The trial, which recently started at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, is funded by and supported by Friends of the Cancer Centre and Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

Professor Joe O'Sullivan, clinical director of oncology at the Belfast Trust, who is also leading the trial, said he hoped to get results within two years.

"This trial is a crucial development in the fight against prostate cancer, which is the most common type of cancer among men in Northern Ireland," he added.

"It is hoped that combining the two forms of radiotherapy will be more effective than existing hormone treatment in targeting prostate cancer cells at multiple sites and will extend the life expectancy of men whose treatment options are otherwise limited.

"We expect results from the initial trial within two years, with the view to then embarking on a larger trial with a greater number of patients."

Dr Iain Frame, director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, also welcomed the potentially ground-breaking project.

"This trial represents a really exciting shift in how we think about prostate cancer - away from aiming to prolong life for men with advanced prostate cancer, towards taking the first steps to stopping the disease in its tracks," he said.

"We are on the brink of remarkable breakthroughs in prostate cancer research, and this trial could be one of them. That is why we mus not falter.

"If we continue investing in world-class research like this, within 10 years, the world of prostate cancer research and treatment will be a far more hopeful place for men with a high risk of the disease."

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