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Headline declaring ‘new’ prostate cancer drug misses the point, but the research is still crucial for some patients

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

25 March 2011

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New clinical trials results, but not a new drug

New clinical trials results, but not a new drug

You may have seen today’s headline talking about a ‘new drug’ for prostate cancer.

Reading such headlines, men with prostate cancer could be forgiven for rushing to their doctors to find out about this advance in treatment.

However, this headline paints a simplified picture of newly published clinical trial results.

Building on earlier work

Firstly, it’s important for people affected by prostate cancer to know that this trial builds on previous work, and looked at a treatment that is already being used in the clinic for some men with prostate cancer – those with disease that has started to or has already spread to nearby organs. It is not a new treatment.

And – secondly – it’s only been shown to be useful for patients with such ‘locally advanced’ cancer, not all men with prostate cancer.

The treatment in question is called ‘neoadjuvant androgen-deprivation therapy’, or NADT for short. Neoadjuvant simply means given before main treatment, which for patients with locally advanced prostate cancer is often radiotherapy.

Scientists already knew from previous work that NADT could help control disease for longer than radiotherapy alone. But there was some debate as to how long before radiotherapy NADT should be given for the best results, with doctors typically giving it for anywhere between 3 to 8 months. These updated trial data help to address this question, and show that NADT should be given for at least 6 months.

Significant work, but not a universal remedy

Ten years after being treated with radiotherapy alone, 22 percent of men had died from their prostate cancer. But the risk of death was halved to around 11 percent in men who received 6-month NADT followed by radiotherapy.

So this work is undoubtedly important in clarifying best clinical practice for men with locally advanced prostate cancer. But unfortunately the treatment is not the universal remedy that a glimpse at the headlines might make you think it is.



Denham, JW, Steigler, A, Lamb, DS, Joseph, D, Turner, S, Matthews, J, Atkinson, C, North, J, Chritie, D, Spry, NA, Tai, K-H, Wynne, C, & D’Este, C (2011). Short-term neoadjuvant androgen deprivation and radiotherapy for locally advanced prostate cancer: 10-year data from the TROG 96.01 randomised trial Lancet Oncology : 10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70063-8

Parker, C (2011). Androgen deprivation before prostate radiotherapy: how long is long enough? Lancet Oncology : 10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70072-9