Thousands of men with prostate cancer could be safely spared chemotherapy, after research found some were not helped by it.
A study of more than 2,000 men with advanced prostate cancer showed that on average, docetaxel chemotherapy improved five-year survival rates.
It was more effective in men with many metastases – meaning the cancer had spread – when diagnosed. But men with fewer metastases whose cancer was caught earlier did not benefit at all.
Experts said it could allow chemotherapy to be targeted at those who will benefit the most, while others can be offered other effective treatments to extend their lives further and allow them to avoid unnecessary side effects of tiredness, nausea, hair loss and loss of appetite
Dr Hayley Luxton, Research Impact Manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘This is really exciting because it shows exactly how we can ‘treat smarter, not harder’ and get the most from existing prostate cancer treatments.
‘There have been a lot of new treatments approved for prostate cancer in recent years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about how they interact with each other and who benefits most.
The study shows that some groups of men get a huge boost to their life expectancy, and could be targeted to receive the drug as a priority
‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, fewer men have been receiving chemotherapy due to its impact on the immune system. But this analysis shows that some groups of men get a huge boost to their life expectancy, and could be targeted to receive the drug as a priority.
‘Other groups don’t get any benefit at all, so could safely be moved on to other treatments.
‘All this paves the way for men to receive more personalised, more effective treatments while experiencing fewer side effects.’
Experts said it is likely that hundreds of men each year could be spared chemotherapy based on the results of this research – adding up to the thousands over time.
Side effects can include tiredness, feeling and being sick, hair loss and a loss of appetite.
The study, led by University College London and funded by Prostate Cancer UK, was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.
Dr Claire Vale, who presented the data at ASCO, said: ‘Research into new prostate cancer treatments can be incredibly expensive and can take a long time, so this type of analysis that makes the best use of the information we already have, can make a big difference.
‘Even then, it’s extremely rare to find such clear links between the characteristics of the patient and how effective their treatment is going to be. In this case, the evidence is clear, and we want to make sure it’s incorporated into clinical practice as soon as possible.’