Doctors at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital gave prostate cancer patients a powerful alpha radiation drug and found that they lived longer, and experienced less pain and side effects. The medics then stopped the trial of 922 people, saying it was unethical not to offer all of them the treatment.
Lead researcher Dr Chris Parker said it was “a significant step forward”. Cancer Research UK said it was a very important and promising discovery. The death rate was 30% lower in the group taking radium-223 than those on placebo. Those patients survived for 14 months on average compared to 11 months in the dummy group. The trial was abandoned as “it would have been unethical not to offer the active treatment to those taking placebo”, said Dr Parker.
Researchers also said the treatment was safe. Curiously there were fewer side-effects in the group taking the treatment than those taking the dummy medicine. The findings are being presented at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress but they have not yet been peer-reviewed by other academics.
Prof Gillies McKenna, Cancer Research UK’s radiotherapy expert and director of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, said: “This appears to be an important study using a highly targeted form of radiation to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bones. “This research looks very promising and could be an important addition to approaches available to treat secondary tumours - and should be investigated further.”
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