Early treatment with a chemotherapy drug extends the lives of patients with advanced prostate cancer by nearly two years, a major study shows. Docetaxol is normally given after hormone treatment has failed.  But results, to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will show earlier treatment can extend life expectancy from 43 to 65 months.

Experts said the findings from a trial in Britain and Switzerland were “potentially game-changing”. More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and nearly 11,000 die in the UK each year.  During the trial, being run across Britain and Switzerland, 2,962 men took part in the trial and some were given six doses of docetaxol at the start of their treatment.  Overall, patients who received the drug lived 10 months longer, but for patients where the cancer had already spread beyond the pelvis, the increase in life expectancy was 22 months.

Prof Nicholas James, one of the researchers at Warwick University, called for all patients with prostate cancer that had spread to be given docetaxol when they are diagnosed. He said the NHS needed to act quickly: “To see a 22-month survival advantage off six lots of treatment given several years earlier is a very big benefit. We are very pleased by it.”

Fellow researcher Prof Malcolm Mason, from Cardiff University, added: “In prostate cancer it has been used at a much more advanced stage of the illness, for some years – now we know that this chemotherapy should be added earlier, in fact as soon as hormone therapy starts.” It would be relatively cheap to do as docetaxol is out of patent.

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